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Montville Schools to reopen in hybrid mode

Montville — Town schools are now set for a hybrid reopening in the fall, staying in line with districts in the region.

Last week, the Board of Education approved Superintendent Laurie Pallin’s recommendation for the hybrid reopening.

“Just as the state has successfully slowly phased in re-opening, we believe schools should start at 50% capacity and build to full capacity over time,” Pallin wrote in a letter to parents. “The Board will reassess our plans in the fall, and hopefully our community health data will indicate that we can reduce mitigating strategies and move to phase 2 of our re-opening (full in-person instruction with decreased social distancing).”

School officials throughout Southeastern Connecticut have chosen what they believe is the safest route while trying to maintain some level of in-person instruction: beginning in hybrid mode and hoping to move to full in-person learning later in the year.

Montville Public Schools originally had planned to have all students back for full-time instruction during the 2020-21 school year, as advised by Gov. Ned Lamont, “so long as public health data continues to support this model,” the district’s re-entry plan states. But after districts submitted reopening plans in late July, Lamont told them that instead of full in-person learning, they could pick a hybrid model. Like other schools, Montville had to have plans in place for a partial reopening or for full-on distance learning.

Lamont and state Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona still encouraged districts to pursue in-person models this fall, arguing that out-of-school virtual learning could negatively impact students.

Montville plans to keep classes below 14 students at all schools. The district anticipates a hybrid reopening would reduce the number of students on buses, as it is aiming for one student per seat on the bus.

“Under the hybrid model about 50% of students are in the schools on any given day while the other 50% are distance learning,” Pallin wrote in the letter. “This decreases the density of people in the buildings, increases social distancing to meet (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, decreases the number of people in shared spaces like bathrooms and hallways, and allows time to practice policies and protocols to enhance the health and safety of students and staff.”

The hybrid model would mean one group of students at school on Mondays and Tuesdays and another group on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are for cleaning the school. Students would go to school twice a week while distance learning three days a week. The idea is for students and teachers to see each other, at minimum, once a week and, for elementary students, twice a week.

“Secondary students will attend each class one day a week as they will be in school for one A day and one B day,” Pallin wrote. “Cohort 1 will primarily include students whose last names begin with the letters A-K and Cohort 2 will primarily include students whose last names begin with L-Z. However, the alphabetic grouping will not be followed exactly when students in the same households have different last names or when specific classes have a disproportionate number of students in one cohort.”

The district has restructured classrooms in order to maintain proper social distancing.

“Teachers have been provided with a large area at the front of the room so they can remove masks and provide instruction while maintaining a distance of more than 6 feet from students,” the re-entry plan reads. "Safety protocols are clearly posted throughout the schools, and visitors will be strictly limited. All visitors will be required to complete a visitor’s questionnaire before allowed access to the buildings.”

A parent survey determined that, out of 1,389 students represented in responses, 75.5% are planning on returning to school. Some parents are opting for full distance learning, an option Montville Schools is presenting, and others are choosing home-schooling.

“Online platforms (SeeSaw for grades pK-2 and Google Classroom for grades 3-12) will be maintained by all teachers to ensure that we are prepared to move seamlessly and rapidly from in-person instruction to blended or distance learning and to maximize the potential of technology tools in the classroom,” the reopening plan reads.


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