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Preston joins other school districts with hybrid reopening model

Preston — Preston will reopen schools Aug. 31 with a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning for students in first through eighth grade, while preschool and kindergarten students attend in person four days a week.

Superintendent Roy Seitsinger presented the plan to the Board of Education Monday, having sent a two-page letter to parents late last week outlining the plan, which will follow a regional model already adopted by several local school districts, as well as Norwich Free Academy, Preston’s main designated high school. But Seitsinger warned families that as with anything involving COVID-19 protocols, things could change at any time.

“One thing we have learned over these last few months is that change is almost guaranteed, as we learn more about the virus and its science,” Seitsinger wrote in the letter to parents. “Selecting the hybrid model indicates a commitment to continuous reflection and that changes may occur.”

A virtual meeting with parents is tentatively planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Only about 10 students have informed the school district that they will opt for temporary all-remote learning at the start of the school year.

The Preston plan calls for half the students assigned to Group A to attend school in person on Monday and Tuesday, with students in Group B engaging in virtual learning. On Thursdays and Fridays, the groups will reverse positions. On Wednesdays, schools will be closed for deep cleaning and staff planning and assessment, Seitsinger said.

Preschool and kindergarten students will attend school in person all four days, also staying home on Wednesdays for the deep cleaning.

Seitsinger said students will be divided into the groups by first focusing on siblings, blended families and special education students to create two “relatively balanced groups.” Some school bus routes will need to be reworked after the group lists are confirmed, Seitsinger said.

The first few days of school will have early dismissal. Classrooms and the town’s school buildings will be “reconfigured” with enhanced cleaning plans throughout the schools. Students still will eat in the cafeterias in cohort groups socially distanced. No hot lunches will be served initially.

Unless changes are made, the hybrid plan will be in place through September and will be reviewed in October for possible changes, Seitsinger said. The hybrid model allows the district to have the recommended social distancing, small-group cohort instruction and deep cleaning of schools. It also reconnects students with their teachers, Seitsinger said.

“The basic reasoning is that we’re able to achieve healthy social distancing,” he said. “We’re able to improve contact tracing, and most importantly, we’re able to reestablish the crucial, trusted relationship between student and teacher with face-to-face interactions.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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