On July 29, the Cheshire Board of Education held a special meeting in order to address the recent release of its school reopening plan and the changes that may still be made to it.
The District released its detailed plan on Friday, July 24, calling for all students to return to in-school instruction for the fall, with an option for families to choose remote learning for their children. The plan had been predicated on a mandate from the State of Connecticut that districts had to offer in-school instruction for five days a week in order to be in complete compliance with state regulations.
However, on Monday, July 27, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the state had reversed course and would now allow districts to determine for themselves whether to offer all in-school instruction or a hybrid schedule.
“This week the state let us know that they would be supportive of some sort of flexible schedule for the upcoming semester,” said Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan. “But today (Wednesday) we had a phone call where the state reiterated to us that they don’t necessarily know what that flexible plan might mean.”
A hybrid model would only be utilized for Cheshire High School, Solan explained, while the elementary and middle schools would continue to operate under a “cohort” in-person plan.
According to Solan, Lamont and Educational Commissioner Miguel Cardona met virtually with Districts to discuss the potential of integrating a hybrid educational model for the reopening of schools.
“We all believe that the best case scenario would still be having all students in school for the whole day,” Solan reiterated, “ And the absolute worst case would be returning to all students remote like we had to do in the spring. Now we are just trying to figure out what would work best for our students given the circumstances.”
The hybrid model could take many forms, Solan explained. One possibility may have already been laid out in the District’s official plan, designed to be implemented if the state were to see a moderate increase in COVID-19-related infections. Under that model, students would be separated into specific groups, with one group attending in-school instruction for two days a week while the other group participated in remote learning. The groups would trade off days, with one attending Monday and Tuesday, the other attending Thursday and Friday, and all students learning from home on Wednesdays.
However, Solan also warned that, no matter what kind of hybrid model the District did adopt, it could potentially cost more than what is available.
“If we have to do a hybrid model, and have some kids, say, come in for the morning and then a different group in the afternoon, the cost of that busing would be astronomical,” Solan lamented. “But conversely, if we have to go back to remote learning, we just wasted a boatload of money on PPE.”
Other issues pertaining to the reopening of schools were also addressed by the Council during the meeting, including a topic that will be of interest to many families in Cheshire: Sports.
“If fall sports are canceled, do you think there would be an opprotunity to create later start times?” asked Member Adam Grippo.
Solan responded by saying that while CIAC has given no indication that they will be announcing the cancelation of fall sports, and that creating later start times, at least currently, would be an expensive and impractical option due to the need for additional busing.
The CIAC scheduled an announcement for Thursday afternoon to address the fate of the fall sports schedule.
Board member Faith Ham asked Solan about the fate of elective classes, which she believes might be over looked during the pandemic.
“The students will not be losing any classes,” Solan assured. “We are well aware that some of these elective classes might be the whole reason students go to school that day. We are dedicated to keeping our electives as they are and know how important they are to our students.”
Solan went on to explain that in-school days for the students will look relatively normal in terms of structure, still maintianing an eight period schedule.