Admin

Update: Status of NPS Instructional Models

A Message from Dr. Estrella on the Status of Instructional Models
Posted on 10/29/2020
NPS

Overview

  • Hybrid option to remain in place for middle and high school students
  • In-person option to remain in place for elementary students, certain students with disabilities and English learners
  • Full remote option remains available to all
  • Potential for two-week closures at individual schools where only remote learning would be offered
  • One-day closures and remote learning at individual schools for confirmed cases late in the day or over the weekend

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Last week, we let families know that we needed to look closely at what a rise in COVID-19 cases would mean for in-person instruction at Norwalk Public Schools. The State of Connecticut had classified Norwalk as a COVID “red zone” due to the recent sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Municipalities in the red zone have confirmed positive cases above 15 per 100,000 people, based on a 14-day average.

Since that time, additional cases have been confirmed at NPS, requiring more quarantines. We had to make the difficult decision to move several buildings to full remote instruction, because in-person staffing levels would have been below what is necessary to effectively operate a school.

Since last week, our district leadership team has worked together to review the latest available information. We have consulted with the Norwalk Health Department, Mayor Rilling, Board of Ed members, our medical advisor Dr. Norman Weinberger, as well as school principals and nursing staff. A review of the most recent data shows that cases are continuing to rise.  While we remain hopeful that a vaccine will be available in the future that will significantly reduce the COVID risk, we also know that the current uncertain situation could continue well into the winter.

We also heard concerns from parents and staff member who are worried about physical health, social and emotional well-being, and the challenges of childcare for working parents. With the effective health and safety protocols that the district has in place since the start of school, we know that schools can be one of the best places for children to be, aside from at home. 

Secondary Hybrid & Elementary In-Person to Remain in Place, with the Possibility of Two-Week Individual Building Closures

With all this in mind, Norwalk Public Schools will maintain the current schedule that has middle and high schools in hybrid learning, with in-person instruction available for elementary students. All families will still have the option of having their students attend school through full remote learning. Fall athletics, programs and other activities can continue for schools that are not closed for in-person learning. The restriction on spectators and visitors will remain in place.  

However, all families should be prepared for the possibility that an individual school could be moved to full remote learning for a 14-day period, at any time. Rising case levels, extensive quarantines and related staffing challenges may require this decision to be taken on a school-by school basis. In those circumstances, instruction would continue, but with students, teachers, staff and administrators connecting from home.

While every situation has unique variables, factors that will go into making this decision include:

  • Number of teachers and staff on quarantine
  • Availability of substitutes
  • Extent of the potential exposure within a building
  • Likelihood of additional positive cases following an outside event or exposure
  • Guidance of health and medical experts

Late Night or Weekend Confirmed Cases 

One of the difficulties we have faced in recent weeks has involved cases that have been confirmed late in the day, or over the weekend. Time is needed to assess the extent of the situation, reach all who need to be contacted, confirm availability of staff or substitutes, and increase sanitization measures where needed.   

In these circumstances, the district will make the decision to place that school on full remote learning for the following day. A school will be placed on remote learning for Monday if a positive case is confirmed on a weekend. Taking these steps will help protect students and staff by making sure we can thoroughly conduct all our health and safety protocols.  

In case a last minute emergency notification is required, parents and guardians should make sure their contact information is up-to-date at all times. Contact your school if there has been any changes in your phone number or email address.

Limiting the Potential for More Extended Closures

By taking these extra precautions now, we hope to limit the potential that the whole district might need to return to full at-home learning for an extended period, like last spring. We will monitor patterns and trends on a biweekly basis. Parents should also work with family and friends to identify back up plans, just in case circumstances do change in the future. If other changes do become necessary, NPS counselors would provide additional resources for social emotional support.

Please know that these actions are being taken now, because the health and safety of your children will always be our first priority. Remind your friends and family to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance!  Working together, we can keep our children and community safe.

Thank you for all your support. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Alexandra Estrella

Superintendent