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West Hartford Superintendent: Meal Distribution Success, Remote Learning Planning Underway

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

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore issued an update to families on Monday, March 16 regarding the district’s response to COVID-19.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore has pledged to keep the community updated and sent an email to families Monday afternoon with updates on plans for rolling out a remote learning plan next week that will be followed while school buildings are closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Because not all of the districts students have access to computers, Moore said that on Tuesday there will be further communication about how families can sign out a device for their children to use during this time. Partnerships are also being solidified with internet providers to facilitate remote access.

Principals and other administrators met Monday to discuss the remote learning plans, and those plans will be distributed by each principal later this week, he said.

“Teachers will have virtual in service days, and by the start of next week, I expect that school will resume, in a digital format,” Moore’s letter to families states. “It will not be perfect, but I have no doubt, because of the excellence, professionalism and caring of our teachers, that it will be second to none in the state.”

Monday’s grab and go meal distribution was a great success, said Moore.

“With one day’s lead time, we were able to provide breakfast and lunch bags to our kids, and we will be doing that on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (multiple meals are included at each pickup) for as long as this lasts. I am so very thankful to all who had a hand in making sure that the basic needs were met for so many of our kids,” Moore said.

While this program will meet some of the food needs of those in the school community, the need among others not enrolled in the schools is also great, and increasing in this crisis. He asked that those who can donate food or money to the West Hartford Food Pantry or make a financial donation to The West Hartford Town that Cares.

“Rather than hoarding, it is time for us to be sharing,” Moore said.

While Moore is thankful for the efforts of the community to help flatten the curve and prevent medical facilities from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, he expressed his dismay that many families were not heeding warnings regarding social distancing.

“With so much sacrifice happening by so many, I will admit that I was crestfallen last night when I saw postings on Instagram and other digital platforms of some of our kids taking selfies at parties and in basements, in large groups, with parents aware of this,” he said in his letter. “I wrote on Friday that it was not my place to tell people how to parent, and while that might still be true, please let me remind you again that this behavior is putting our kids, our families, and our community at risk.”

Town Hall closed as of noon Monday, and Moore said everyone will continue to work but on a remote basis, other than when directors will be helping out in the Emergency Operations Center.

Phone lines will be forwarded, so although there may be glitches, calls can be made to schools and offices using the regular phone numbers.

The entire text of Moore’s letter is included below.

Good afternoon all. I want to thank you again for your support, and the efforts of so many to help to flatten the curve. I was heartened by the cooperation of our region’s governors, including Ned Lamont, in announcing today more strict closures of bars and restaurants (other than takeout/delivery), gyms and movie theaters, and gatherings of more than fifty people. I know, however, that this affects the livelihood of so many friends and neighbors, and people that we will need to help. With so much sacrifice happening by so many, I will admit that I was crestfallen last night when I saw postings on Instagram and other digital platforms of some of our kids taking selfies at parties and in basements, in large groups, with parents aware of this. I wrote on Friday that it was not my place to tell people how to parent, and while that might still be true, please let me remind you again that this behavior is putting our kids, our families, and our community at risk. Let’s not pretend that we know of every child or family’s underlying health risks, as some may as yet be undiagnosed. It is time to be selfless, not selfish. I know that we would all like things to be the way they were, but that is not our reality, and it will not be for a while. Many Americans are being asked to sacrifice in a way now that we have not had to since World War Two or the Great Depression. For others, the sacrifice amounts to staying home. It is not too much to ask.

What brightened my mood today was our grab and go program. With one day’s lead time, we were able to provide breakfast and lunch bags to our kids, and we will be doing that on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (multiple meals are included at each pickup) for as long as this lasts. I am so very thankful to all who had a hand in making sure that the basic needs were met for so many of our kids. Please remember those others in our community that are not enrolled in our schools, and donate food or money to West Hartford Food Pantry  or money to The West Hartford Town that Cares  Rather than hoarding, it is time for us to be sharing.

The next challenge we face is in distributing enough devices, and partnering with internet providers, so that all of our students can begin to receive the best education that we can put forward. Our principals and administrators were in today to continue our plans for this rollout. Tomorrow, we will send out details on where and when to go to sign out computer devices for your children who are in need of one. Also this week, you will be receiving communications from your building principals on our remote learning plans. Teachers will have virtual in service days, and by the start of next week, I expect that school will resume, in a digital format. It will not be perfect, but I have no doubt, because of the excellence, professionalism and caring of our teachers, that it will be second to none in the state.

These are trying times, and they are scary. For the past two weeks, I have learned much more than I ever thought I would about viruses, public health, and pandemics. During this time, one of my favorite resources, since I watched him testify before Congress, has been Peter Hotez, the Dean and Chief of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine. Yesterday, I found out that he graduated from Hall High School in 1976, and that Mike Rollins, our Department Supervisor for Science at Hall and King Philip, taught him AP Biology when Dr. Hotez was a sophomore. I take great pride in the products of West Hartford Public Schools, and it is heartening to know that one of them is helping to lead the fight against this disease, as you can see here https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/scientists-were-close-coronavirus-vaccine-years-ago-then-money-dried-n1150091.

At the end of work today, all of us will be working remotely, other than when we are needed in the Emergency Operations Center. Our phone lines will be forwarded, so please forgive any glitches or delays in response. Please watch your email, as next steps will be coming out this week in our planning and rollout.

Be Well,

Tom

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