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West Hartford Superintendent Hopes to Move from Hybrid to Full In-Person Schools

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

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore will present they hybrid reopening plan to the Board of Education at a virtual meeting not Tuesday, Aug. 11.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Public Schools students will be returning to class in four weeks, and the final details of the plan to reopen schools under a hybrid model – but if possible transition to a full in-person model in October – are being finalized and will be reviewed with the Board of Education Tuesday night.

The meeting was scheduled for last Tuesday, Aug. 4, but due to Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out power to more than half of the town, the meeting was rescheduled for Aug. 11, beginning at 7 p.m.

Superintendent Tom Moore announced July 31 that schools will reopen under a hybrid model, with roughly half   of the students in the building at any time, alternating on a weekly basis, with remote learning taking place for those who are on an “off” week.

Many other districts, particularly those similar in size to West Hartford, where there are roughly 9,300 public school students, are also opening under a hybrid model, Moore said.

On Friday, Moore announced further refinements of West Hartford’s plan.

Students will be split into two groups based on the first letter of their last name. The “Red” group is for those with last names beginning with A-K, and the “Blue” group is those with last names beginning with L-Z. Accommodations will be made to include those in the same household with different last names in the same cohort, but it is not feasible to group students to gather for “social, transportation, or neighborhood reasons,” Moore said.

During the first week of school, which begins on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, the Red group will attend in person on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the Blue group on Thursday and Friday, in order to acclimate all students to the process. The Red group will then attend in person the week of Sept. 14 and the week of Sept. 28, and the Blue group will attend in person the week of Sept. 21 and the week of Oct. 5.

Courtesy West Hartford Public Schools

Moore said that staff will continue to finalize class lists and schedules, which will be communicated to families directly from the schools.

“The hybrid opening is our path to a full reopening,” Moore said in Friday’s letter, noting that he wants to reopen schools for all students and believes that the hybrid model is the best way to get as many students as possible back in the classroom, and begin the process of education on new protocols as well as the curriculum.

“I need not tell anyone who has read our large plan what a monumental task this is. We have to provide distancing measures, rework our airflow and HVAC systems, teach children of all ages to wear masks, rework our schedules and class lists, develop new traffic patterns, provide a safe eating environment for 9,300 students, decide how to provide those meals, and assure almost 1,500 teachers, administrators, office staff, custodians, tutors, paraprofessionals, teachers assistants and nurses that we are doing this in the safest way possible. We also need to meet the emotional needs of so many who will find the return to be deeply stressful. Hopefully, through a staggered start, as has been the model throughout the world where school reopening has been successful, the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year can be as smooth as possible under the circumstances.”

Should the health metrics in West Hartford and the state permit, Moore said, the goal is to transition to full, in-person school for students in Pre-K through grade 5, beginning the week of Oct. 13, which is a four-day week since schools are closed on Monday, Oct. 12 for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

If that goes well, Moore said, middle and high school students will return to full in-person learning by the end of October.

“For elementary parents with child care concerns, this will limit the total number of days any child is home to 11 or 12 total days,” Moore said.

“Please remember, however, that these plans are written on paper, not stone. We will have to react to the situation as it is, and I think we all realize that there could be times this year when we are in hybrid, times when we are in school, and times when we are all virtual,” Moore wrote in his letter to parents last Friday.

Families that have chosen at-home learning will receive more details shortly regarding class lists and other important information.

The West Hartford Public Schools website has more detailed information on the hybrid plan which includes sample schedules by grade level.

A more detailed description of services for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans, by level or program, can found here.

The agenda for the Aug. 11 Board of Education meeting can be found here.

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