Thoughtexchange Follow-up
 


August 15, 2020

Dear Families,

I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to participate in the Thought Exchange Survey.  This process allowed the district to see what was on the minds of our families.  As a team we broke down all of the results into categories and came up with around a dozen different thought groupings.  I will take a moment today to address the highest ranked comments of each group.  Below you will find one question (Q:) per topic grouping and an answer (A:) provided.


Health & Safety  

Q: What measures would be taken to protect children and staff on an ongoing basis?

A:  The Region 14 Operations of Schools During Covid-19 Pandemic policy that was adopted on August 3, 2020 provided information on steps that will be taken to protect our students and staff.  Our procedures and protocols are spelled out, in specifics, in this document and it is available on the Region 14 website.


Sanitization

Q: Hand washing stations & having hand sanitizers available Students, teachers & other staff should sanitize when then enter a room & exit a room.

A: The custodial staff have increased the number of sanitizing stations throughout the school building since the students left school in March.  This includes in classrooms, as well as common areas and next to elevators.  Staff will help remind students to wash hands frequently and to use sanitizer when entering and leaving classrooms, bathrooms, etc.


Social Distancing

Q: How will you ensure social distancing throughout the school during the day for the students’ safety and staff/faculty safety?

A: Plexiglas dividers will be used in places where students cannot maintain a 6-foot social distance space, this includes offices and classrooms.  Hallways will be marked with tape to encourage distanced traffic flow and students will not be permitted to gather in confined areas.  Restrooms will not be open during passing times at the middle and high schools.  Procedures will be put in place to monitor usage of the restroom to prevent gathering of students.


Mask Concerns

Q: In the schools with no a/c how are the kids going to be able to not get over heated wearing masks all day?  Its uncomfortable enough wearing masks but when the building is 90 degrees it will be dangerous for the kids.

A: The district acknowledges the fact that students wearing masks will be difficult for some.  Public schools are mandated, by the State of Connecticut, the CDC and the CSDE, to require mask usage while students are on the school buses or in the school buildings.  We encourage parents to work with their children, prior to returning to school, on proper mask wearing and to build up their comfort with the mask by wearing it at home and increasing the time worn in 5 minute increments daily.  Students will be given mask breaks throughout the school day.


Symptoms/Test Positive Plan

Q: What is the plan should a student, teacher, bus driver, or any Region 14 staff member or their family members test positive for COVID-19?  Families will need a backup plan if schools need to close for any period of time. This is important for parents who can't work from home.

A: Should any member (student/staff) of Region 14 test positive for COVID-19 the Superintendent and COVID compliance officer will immediately reach out to the Districts Medical physician and the local health authorities for guidance on what steps to take.  This will include things such as potential school closures, extra cleaning, contract tracing and notification of families.  These steps will be dictated by the local health trends at the time and the guidance from the CDC.  No decisions will be made without involvement of all of the experts the district has at their disposal.


Hybrid Plan B

Q: In my opinion under plan B, all students (including 6-12) should be in school at least 2 days/week. Half can go Monday / Tuesday and rest Thursday / Friday with Wednesday for deep cleaning.  All students need some degree of in-person instruction.

A: The Region 14 hybrid plan includes in person learning for all students grades Pre-K through 6 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Students in grades 7-12 will follow an AA/BB schedule.  Group A will attend school in person Monday and Tuesday, Group B will attend school in person Thursday and Friday; students will participate in remote learning on the days they are not in person.  All students in Region 14 will be remote learning on Wednesday.  Wednesday will consist of remote learning for teachers and a deep cleaning of the buildings by our custodians.


Distance Learning

Q: What training has the staff received to improve virtual classes?

A: With the adjustment of the first day of school to September 8th teachers will be participating in additional Professional Development preparing them to provide high quality distance learning whether in a hybrid model or a full remote learning plan (if this becomes necessary).


Family Choice

Q: Can the district send out a survey asking parents which option they would prefer the district to choose?

A: Families can elect to participate in the hybrid learning plan as presented or may also elect to use the Region 14 Remote Learning program.


Working Families

Q: At this time, I am the most concerned with the unknown.  We are a 2 working parent home, and not knowing makes it hard to plan. Without care for our children one of us will not be able to do our jobs.  Last minute planning makes it even harder.

A: We do understand the stress these decisions and guidelines cause for families.  While no two families are the same many do face similar issues with childcare and remote learning challenges.  Region 14 will continue to try to keep families informed, with as much notice as possible, as changes happen.  We ask for your patience as there are circumstances where we need to change plans on a moment’s notice based on directive and guidance from the CDC, CSDE and our local health authorities.


Social Emotional

Q: I’ve never been so torn as to what is best for my family’s wellbeing before.  I’m not so sure COVID is the biggest risk anymore but, obviously, it’s a great risk.  Children’s mental and social development is also at risk now.

A: Region 14 will continue to utilize every tool possible to assist our students during this challenging time.  Each school now has a full time social worker on staff.  We will continue to train staff in the Ruler program.  Now, more than ever before we understand the need for our entire staff to be mindful and aware of student’s metal health and wellbeing.  Please understand that we are here for our students and families.  If you need assistance helping or are concerned about your child, please reach out to their school and someone will assist you.


Transportation

Q: My child's school bus is VERY crowded, social distancing is not an option unless additional buses are used.  I do not see that issue addressed in the plans.

A: All students will be required to wear a mask on the school bus.  We are evaluating the bus routes at this time to verify student numbers on each bus route.  We are continuing to contract with All-Star Transportation who has been the bus company for Region 14 for many years and are working with them on how to best transport our students safely.


Communication

Q: The Region 14 website needs to be updated. We cannot make the best choices for our children if we do not have access to up-to-date information from our schools.

A: The Region 14 website has a section dedicated to school opening and it is updated as information comes in and decisions are made.  Any correspondence that is sent home to families via email is also always available on our website.  We do use care to not post information until it is finalized so as to not confuse families with conflicting information.


Special Needs

Q: What about special needs kids? How will this affect them and how do we accommodate to get them what they need?

A: Region 14 will continue to work with families who have students with special educational needs to ensure we provide them with the resources they require.  As each student is unique, we will continue, as always, to address these students on an individual basis directly with families.


We again thank you for your participation in the Thought Exchange and we hope you find these questions and answers helpful.


Sincerely,

Dr. Olzacki's signature

Joseph A. Olzacki, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools