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New London schools to wait a month before decision on return to full in-person classes

New London — New London schools will remain in the hybrid model for an extra month before considering a full district reopening, Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie announced to families this week.

The announcement, contained in one of Ritchie’s regular updates to school families, comes amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in New London County.

The district, when school started seven weeks ago, had planned to assess the feasibility of a full reopening by the end of October. New London, however, is among nine towns in the county on “red alert” because it continues to average at least 15 new cases a day per 100,000 residents.

Ritchie said remaining in hybrid will ensure in-person class sizes remain small and social distancing measures stay in place. “We will continue to monitor the data and collaborate with our medical advisor and partners at Ledge Light to make the decision about the instructional model options available for December, with a plan to share by mid-November,” she said.

Several of the schools in the district have intermittently closed because of COVID-19 cases, most recently the high school, where in-person classes were canceled on Thursday and Friday.

Decisions to temporarily close a classroom or a building are made on a case-to-case basis, Ritchie said. Presently, students are separated into two cohorts, each attending two days of in-person classes per week and three days of remote learning. Full-time distance learning, Ritchie said, will continue to be an option for families.

Schools have been closed for cleaning on Wednesdays but Ritchie said that, beginning in November, the district is planning to open up the buildings for staff members to work in if they choose.

In the meantime, Ritchie said, the schools are preparing for a full return to five-day-a-week instruction while considering other options, such as expanding the hybrid model to include in-person instruction for students on Wednesdays.

“Consultation with our medical advisor and leaders from Ledge Light Health district will inform the district's decision,” Ritchie said.

The district is urging families to continue with COVID-19 safety protocols that include frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks. Free COVID-19 tests are available in the community, with a list of testing sites on the Ledge Light Health District website. Free testing remains available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Community Health Center at 1 Shaws Cove.

g.smith@theday.com

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