Government Schools

Breaking: West Hartford Public Schools to Close for at Least 2 Weeks [Updated]

West Hartford Public Schools Superintendent's Office. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore issues a letter to the community on Thursday, March 12, 2020, indicating that public schools will suspend classes after Friday, March 13, for at least two weeks. [Updated: Suspension of classes will also take place at West Hartford’s Catholic schools, Kingswood Oxford, and Solomon Schechter.]

By Ronni Newton

As of Thursday there was not yet a positive COVID-19 test result in West Hartford, but after much deliberation with town officials and experts, Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore made the very difficult decision to suspend operations at the end of the week.

Moore said that waiting for a positive test, in his opinion, would be unwise because given the small number of tests administered, and the existence of positive results elsewhere in the state and in neighboring states, it is highly likely the coronavirus is already in West Hartford.

Classes will be suspended for at least two weeks, beginning Monday, March 16.

Distance learning plans will be considered if the suspension of classes needs to extend beyond the two-week period, but as of now the missed classroom time will be made up in June, Moore said.

Families will have many questions, and Moore said further emails will be forthcoming and information will be posted on the West Hartford Public Schools website with specific details about issues such as providing food for students who rely on lunch as well as breakfast at school and childcare resources.

“I don’t want the disruption, but I want to do what’s best for our community,” Moore said.

The state has not issued a mandate for schools to be closed, and Moore said that as of Thursday afternoon, other districts in the area have not yet suspended classes.

According to West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, Catholic schools located in West Hartford and Solomon Schechter Day School will be following West Hartford Public Schools and closing for at least two weeks beginning Monday, March 16.

Kingswood Oxford is currently on a regularly-scheduled spring break, through March 23, and then will remain closed until at least April 6, Head of School Thomas Dillow said in a letter on Thursday. Online classes will begin on Tuesday, March 24.

“There will be more information forthcoming about the plan for remote learning during this period, but school will be closed until that time, at which point we will reassess the situation. This includes all school-related events such as athletics, dances, and other gatherings. We will do our best to reschedule as many events as possible,” Dillow’s letter states.

The text of Moore’s letter can be found below.

Dear West Hartford Community,

I have promised that I would provide open, honest and direct communication with you during this pandemic, and that I would try to lead our schools in a way that takes the needs of all students into account. I am writing you today to let you know that West Hartford Public Schools will be suspending operations at the end of this week, and will be closed starting Monday, March 16, 2020. We will hopefully return to regular operations in two weeks, but that decision will depend on the events at the time.

I do not take this step lightly. I know that some would have me wait until there is a positive COVID 19 test in West Hartford, but the simple reality is that there have been, at this point in time, well under 100 tests given in the state of Connecticut. When the state epidemiologist Matthew Cartter says “If you have a fever and a cough and you are in the southwestern part of the state you should assume that you have COVID 19”, I believe that it is the time to act. This pandemic does not stop at borders, be they of towns or nations. I have been in regular contact with Aimee Krauss, the Director of Health for the West Hartford- Bloomfield Health District, and she agrees with this decision.

I know that this action brings up many questions, and I wanted to announce it today so that our families had tomorrow and the weekend to make further plans for work and childcare arrangements. One good thing is that we have an influx of college kids coming home to West Hartford that are ready to be child care providers. We raised great young adults in this community, and we are fortunate to have them here to step up in our community’s time of need. If you choose not to send your child to school tomorrow, that is your right as a parent, but we will be up and operational.

West Hartford is a community with 27% of our families meeting the requirements for free and reduced lunch, as well as many others who are food insecure. These neighbors weigh heavily on my mind as I make this decision, and Roszena Haskins, our Director of Diversity Advancement, will oversee our efforts and partnerships with local organizations to make sure that we are doing our part to ensure that every member of our community is taken care of.

Obviously, in the coming days you will want to monitor your emails and our website as I communicate about these and other topics that we have spent the past two weeks preparing for. As of now, these days will be made up so we can expect to be in school until the end of June. Paul Vicinus, my Assistant Superintendent, is overseeing our academic response, and should the need arise due to an extended closure, we have plans for distance learning that we will share as time passes.

I want to thank Deb Polun, our Board of Education Chair and all of the members of the Board for their support. I have also spoken with Mayor Cantor and Town Manager Matt Hart, and their agreement in doing everything we can to make the people of West Hartford safe is greatly appreciated.

This is a difficult time, but we will get through it if we stick together, lift each other up, and take care of our families, friends and neighbors. I hope that we can follow the example of St. Louis in the pandemic of 1918, where the actions of leaders saved the lives of many, as detailed here https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-pandemic-response-cities.

I greatly appreciate your support, and I am so proud to serve as your superintendent.


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