Wilton schools will follow these COVID safety protocols

Wilton Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith talks with Miller-Driscoll students on the first day of school in 2018.

Wilton Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith talks with Miller-Driscoll students on the first day of school in 2018.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — As August draws to a close, school is set to begin in Wilton and Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith spoke on Tuesday about the third straight academic year that is set to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith discussed mitigation strategies that the district will be employing at the start of the year.

“With respect to layered mitigation strategies, I think first and foremost, as you are aware, the vaccine is probably the primary mitigation strategy for all those eligible,” Smith said, reiterating the importance of high vaccination rates in the district. “Across the district, among our staff, it looks like we are able to confirm that about 85 percent have been fully vaccinated.”

In Wilton, about 74 percent of school-aged children have been vaccinated and about 72 percent of the town’s total population have been vaccinated.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s mask mandate for students and staff remains in effect until at least Sept. 30.

“We will see where the updated guidance takes us after,” Smith said.

Additional mitigation strategies will include proper air ventilation throughout each school building, 3 fee of social distancing space, continuing to utilize hand sanitizing stations and regularly disinfecting common areas and contract tracing protocols.

Although the district will have to continue to adhere to these mitigation strategies, Smith wants to be able to make the year feel as “normal” as it possibly can.

For example, “special classes,” such as band class and art, will be held in their designated classrooms once again. Cafeterias will again be utilized for the lunch period, when available. Sneeze guards made of Plexiglass will no longer stand atop each child’s desk.

Smith said the district is aiming to go “back to practices that serve the kids well.”

“Back to a year that feels a bit more comfortable than last year did,” he said.

As efforts remain high throughout the district to make the school setting as congenial as possible, Smith said he still feels the fatigue from some parents and faculty.

In late July through August, the superintendent said he fielded a “rough estimate of maybe 30 to 35 emails.” He said the emails consisted of strong advocates for a mask-free school option or to eliminate masks in the school buildings altogether and for those in favor of masks.

Smith pointed out the statewide mask mandates from the guidance of Lamont’s office to start the year is pretty “cut and dry.”

Smith said the district will evaluate future state guidance a decision with the help of “health and medical experts” and the Board of Education.

Students who are generally healthy and COVID-19 free will be learning in the classroom this year. There will be no remote learning option, and Smith said that is likely to be the case for the entire year unless circumstances change.

For students who are required to quarantine due to COVID exposure, or are immunocompromised or have a close family member in the household is, Smith said all teachers will be expected to provide coursework through Schoology, an online learning management medium.

For Smith, who has just surpassed seven years as the head of the district and has amassed a 25 year career in education starting as a teacher in 1996, said the pandemic has been a challenging time.

“Asking myself ‘did you ever think you would be living through a global pandemic?’ It was theoretical until it wasn’t,” Smith said. “We have to remind ourselves what we are about. For me, working ith kids and education is the most hopeful and joyous profession there is.”