Like Wilton, other school districts opting for hybrid model
WILTON — While many K-12 schools will reopen in the coming days, how they open may still be subject to change, such is the nature of education during a pandemic.
A survey conducted by the state Department of Education between the end of July and Aug. 11, found that of the 199 school districts, more than half — 113 or 57 percent — expected to reopen fully in person on day one, or within four weeks. Not surprisingly, some have since changed their plan.
In the survey released by the state, several districts in District Reference Group A, planned to open with a full, in-person model. Now they are all going with a hybrid model.
District reference groups are used by the Department of Education to classify local public school districts together based on the similar socioeconomic status of their students. DRG-A includes Darien, Easton (K-8), New Canaan, Redding (K-8), Region 9 (Joel Barlow High School), Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.
Wilton’s Board of Education approved opening with a hybrid model earlier this month, but its plans have since changed. Following a special meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday, Aug. 25, school will open fully remotely on Monday, Aug. 31, with shortened days. The afternoons will be devoted to teacher planning and training.
Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith said this choice was recommended after discussions with Health Director Barry Bogle following several instances of young people gathering in large groups without masks or social distancing.
Students will return in a hybrid model on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Students will be divided alphabetically into two cohorts, attending on Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, with everyone learning remotely in a shortened day on Wednesday. Staff development is planned for Wednesday afternoons. The model is to be reassessed by Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith every three weeks.
Although Darien Public Schools responded to the state survey indicating an in-person return to school, the reopening plan on the district website says classes will reopen for students on Sept. 3 with a hybrid plan “with the intent for a full in-person return beginning September 29.”
Cohorts of students will attend class on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. Friday will be a day of remote learning for all students and building sanitation.
Professional development for staff was planned for Aug. 27-Sept. 1.
New Canaan also changed course from a plan that called for in-person learning to a hybrid model. As of mid-August the district announced a four-part plan for re-entry from September through October.
Students, except for kindergartners, will attend half-days in two cohorts Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Kindergartners will attend half-days beginning Aug. 31 through Sept. 18.
When full classes begin on Sept. 8, students will be divided into two cohorts, who will attend Monday and Tuesday and Thursday and Friday. Cohorts will alternate for half-days on Wednesday, with the afternoons for teacher training. Remote learning begins the second week of school.
Should community spread remain “low,” the district will begin changing over to full in-person classes beginning with K-4 on Sept. 21, and fifth through eighth grade on Sept. 29. High school students are expected to return to full capacity on Oct. 5.
Ridgefield’s first day will be Aug. 27 and its reopening plan calls for a hybrid model. Ridgefield High School will be hybrid through the first quarter while grades K-8 will be hybrid at least through Sept. 29.
Unlike some other districts, Ridgefield will work on a two-week schedule. Students will be divided into two cohorts. During the first week, Group A will attend in person two days and learn remotely three days, while Group B attends in person three days and learns remotely two days. The two groups will swap the number of days during the second week.
The length of each school day for in-person and hybrid plans has been reduced by 40 minutes.
Although plans are not finalized for elementary schools, Westport’s website shows a hybrid model having elementary-level students attending class for half a day every day, alternating mornings and afternoons between two cohorts of students. While at home, each class will receive one live “special” every day. Art, music, Spanish and P.E. will meet once a week. On Wednesdays, students will receive a second “special.”
Middle and high school students will be divided into two cohorts, each attending in school two days a week and online three days a week.
Easton, Redding and Region 9 are planning to open with a hybrid model similar to Wilton’s, sending students in two cohorts on a Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday basis with everyone remote on Wednesday.
The start date has been pushed to Sept. 8 and the first four weeks will be a trial period for the hybrid model. If the number of cases don’t worsen a switch to full in-person learning on Oct. 5 is planned.
Weston schools will also open with a hybrid model, with students on a Monday/Thursday, Tuesday/Friday schedule and everyone learning remotely on Wednesday.
Instead of dividing students alphabetically, as many other districts are doing, the district’s reopening plan says “principals and teachers will place students into groups individually, keeping in mind students’ specific learning and social emotional needs and the balance of each cohort.”
The first day of school is Sept. 8.
This story was updated to reflect a change in Wilton’s reopening plans.