Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan confirmed that students at Cheshire High School will be returning to in-person instruction on Monday, Nov. 23, after spending a majority of the last week doing remote learning due to concerns over possible COVID-19 exposure among the school’s food service crew.
On Monday, Nov. 16, a staff member of the CHS food service department reported experiencing symptoms related to the virus. The employee was not in the building at the time, but the District made the decision to enact what was described as an “emergency early dismissal” for the school.
Solan then announced that students would remain on a remote-learning schedule until the results of the employee’s COVID-19 test were learned. Mid-week, it was reported that the individual’s test came back negative, however another food service employee reported experiencing similar symptoms, leading Solan and the CHS administration to keep the high school closed for in-person learning through Friday, Nov. 20.
“We know the question of, ‘When do we need to start looking at moving to all remote learning?’ is fresh in everyone's minds right now given the state of things,” Solan stated, during the Nov. 19 meeting of the BOE. “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a form that they use to evaluate when you might want to consider that. We have to look at three primary factors…and we don’t meet those criteria yet.”
The three primary factors are the percentage of cases per 100,000 residents, the percentage of positive PCR tests within the last 14 days, and the ability of the schools to perform mitigation strategies such as enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing. According to Solan, the Cheshire School District scores “low to moderate risk” in all these categories, therefore the District will continue with in-person instruction.
“First and foremost we want to make sure that school is safe for all students and staff,” Solan added. “...And we believe that, at least right now, that we can move forward with in-person instruction with a remote learning option until we can no longer do so.”
Because Thanksgiving week is a shortened one already due to the holiday—schools are scheduled for a half-day on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and full days off on Nov. 26 and 27—Solan stated that he understands some families have concerns about sending their children to in-person schooling for the shortened week.
For them, Solan is offering a second option.
“For those who are electing to go remote starting on Monday, they will be required to remain in remote learning until Jan. 2,” he said. “This is the same one-month standard that has existed all year.”
Chief Operations Officer Vin Masciana also had an important announcement regarding student meals during the Thanksgiving break.
“Because of the issues with the food service staff over at the high school and them needing to quarantine, all remote lunch pickups will take place at Dodd for this week,” he said. “Also, the Cheshire Food Service staff is gearing up to do a massive food distribution on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, for students for the next seven days.”
Masciana also confirmed that the free student meals provided by the USDA will be extended to all students until the end of the school year.
“The meals are free to the children, but there has been a reluctance to take advantage of that program,” he added.
The pick up for the Thanksgiving food distribution on Wednesday, Nov. 25 will take place at Dodd Middle School.