Wilton summer school still up in air
WILTON — It’s still undecided whether the schools will be able to host any summer school program, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith told the Board of Education on Thursday night.
A revised set of guidelines was received from the state last week regarding district protocol for holding summer school, he said.
“It was even more stringent than the original guidelines we received several weeks ago,” he said.
After receiving the first set of guidelines last month, which included a panoply of requirements for social distancing, cleaning, transportation and more, Smith said he and others returned “about half a million questions” to the state on various details.
“I wasn’t fully expecting what came down and quite frankl,y some of the language has changed, so it’s not really guidance at this point,” he said. “There are some rules that we need to follow.”
He was also displeased with a new “Checklist and Confirmation Form” that was added to the end of the revised guideline.
“This form is intended to serve as a checklist for Superintendents to confirm that they have read and understood the Summer School Rules and are implementing the required compliance efforts,” the document reads, with a requirement that superintendents sign it and return it back to the state by June 15.
Requirements include a compliance plan be in place, with a range of specifics, and that an employee be appointed as a health and safety compliance liaison to oversee the opening.
Smith and his staff members have continued to hold discussions with surrounding districts about their plans for the summer and beyond, with different decisions coming down the line from different municipalities.
Meanwhile, Andrea Leonardi, assistant superintendent for student services, has continued work with her team to try and formulate an Extended School Year summer program for special needs students.
“We have been wading through that guidance and working with our partners,” she said, including parents and the health department, in order to see how they might operate a program for 350 to 400 students from preschool up to age 21.
“And that is a wide variety of levels of support and services … based on students’ needs,” she said, from small speech or language interventions that would be held only once a week, on up to a full six-hour day of individualized comprehensive services.
“It is a moving target and we’re getting different information — good and not so good — every day,” Leonardi said.
“I guess the $64,000 question that remains [is] are we, in fact, going to reopen and when we will we get a definitive answer from the state,” Vice Chair Glenn Hemmerle said.
He asked — somewhat rhetorically — why the state was yet to produce firm guidelines for the fall, noting that the state of Maryland had already done so.
“Connecticut just hasn’t done it yet and I’m mind-boggled by that,” he said, noting the district only had about 80 days left to get prepared.
“When is that decision going to be made and when are the guidelines and the requirements going to definitely come from the state?” Hemmerle asked.
Smith offered some defense of the state, noting it was understaffed.
“I’m sympathetic to the struggle to get a plan in place,” he said.
“And to some extent they have to follow the science, which keeps changing,” Chair Deborah Low noted.
“Maybe best case, we’ll have something by mid-June [but] we’ve been told we’ll get it as soon as it’s ready,” Smith said, with Aug. 24 the scheduled school start day in Wilton.
Smith said the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents has asked the state to consider different reopening options, including cost scenarios, but ultimately asked that it recommend one option only. This would be for consistency’s sake and, in part, to make it easier for teachers who live in other districts and have their own children, so they can be on the same schedule.
As Wilton moves forward with its look at reopening in the fall, much consideration is being given to the issue of daycare, including for teachers.
“We developed a survey for both staff and families so that we can solicit feedback on how the e-learning was received,” said Maria Coleman, director of human resources and general administration, with more than half of the district’s 600 staff members responding this week.
These surveys, she said, are querying “what the readiness levels are as people anticipate returning to school in the fall.”
“Students have been through trauma,” she said. “Staff members have been through trauma.”
She said details on the results will be summarized and shared in coming days with the board.
Coleman said that, because laws have become more liberal toward family leave and are, in essence, encouraging more people to stay home — both to augment better health and to diminish doctor visits — the district needs to prepare for staffing numbers to be lower or fluctuating.
Some of the “out of the box” options that are being explored include job sharing scenarios and having childcare on site for teachers, she said.
“We recognize that now, more than ever, we need to entertain all possibilities,” she said. “We need to be very creative.”