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BOE Meets After Students Return To School Buildings



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With students back in school buildings as of January 4, Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue shared COVID-19 related updates with the Board of Education at its January 5 meeting.

Kindergarten to sixth grade students returned to school in person January 4 after a remote learning model was used throughout December. The older grades returned using the district’s hybrid model on January 4 and are expected to return in full January 19. The remote learning model was implemented November 23 for all students.

Dr Rodrigue shared that the “COVID-19 Dashboard” portion of the district’s website, newtown.k12.ct.us, was created to share information about reported and confirmed cases in the school community. That section of the website is available in the bottom right of the home page. A recent relaxation of state requirements for substitutes led 15 community members to “step up” to help cover staffing needs related to quarantines and more, according to Dr Rodrigue.

Responding to recent questions about the district’s quarantine practices, Dr Rodrigue said the school district follows Centers for Disease Control and Connecticut Department of Health quarantine guidelines and that it does not “over quarantine.”

“We do and will continue to take quarantining seriously for the safety of our staff and students, especially now as numbers climb... We want to make sure we are doing the right thing when it comes to quarantining,” said Dr Rodrigue.

The school district is also continuing to use a three-hour early release schedule on Wednesdays, the superintendent shared, and will continue that after the middle school and high school students’ expected return on January 19. The upper grades are expected to have a modified schedule allowing for an early release from the buildings before learning remotely at home to finish the school day. Teachers need the planning time allowed by releasing early on Wednesdays, Dr Rodrigue said, especially with the “Cohort D” students who are remaining remote learners per their family’s choice.

The superintendent also shared there are roughly 700 students now in Cohort D, and in October there were just over 400 students in that group.

Director of Pupil Services Deborah Mailloux-Petersen spoke at the meeting about special education services, specifically around action plans for teaching reading and how services have been provided “this whole COVID time.”

Mailloux-Petersen highlighted different training educators have received and outside evaluators who have visited the district to see if services are provided appropriately, and said the district continues reading evaluations for students who potentially have dyslexia.

With the start of the school year, Mailloux-Petersen said the district received guidelines from the state about providing services for special education students.

Students who have a hard time using computers, those who need one-on-one paraeducator support, and some others were brought to the school buildings to provide support, according to Mailloux-Petersen. With the remote learning transition, parents were given the decision to keep students home or have the students in school ahead of the change.

The district’s preschool students were fully in school for the start of the school year, according to Mailloux-Petersen.

“Just keep in mind our special education numbers have gone up dramatically since our October 1 report to the state,” said Mailloux-Petersen, adding that a large number of new families moved to the district with students with special needs.

Mailloux-Petersen said she will review the rise in the special education student population at a future board meeting.

The school board also approved a new schedule for Newtown Middle School for the 2021-22 school year. The presentation on the new schedule will be reported in next week’s print edition of The Newtown Bee, along with a presentation on district standardized testing results.

Also at the meeting, the school board approved charter revision considerations that will be submitted to a Legislative Council subcommittee for further review.

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