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Schools To Continue ‘Remote’ Through December 23



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Newtown Public Schools will continue utilizing the remote learning model through December 23 and will return to the hybrid model for January 4, as Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue announced on December 2.

The announcement came the day after a virtual Board of Education meeting that included a COVID-19 update.

“As promised I have spent many hours reflecting on our status in the school community related to a return to school,” Rodrigue wrote to district staff, parents, and caregivers on December 2. “After much discussion with our local health experts, a review of staffing needs and the potential for ongoing quarantining, as well as current COVID trends in the community, Newtown Public Schools will remain on remote learning through December 23 (two-and-a-half weeks). All K-12 students will return to our hybrid model on January 4, following the winter break and holiday season.”

“Our goal is to reassess the week of January 4, 2021, with the target of bringing K-6 students back to full in-person learning as quickly as is possible, followed by 7-12 students when that is feasible,” the letter continued. “We wanted you to have advanced notice so that you can plan for these days as a family.”

“We know this is not easy for anyone, but our decision is based on current conditions and the impact on our schools. Please know that schools continue to be safe, and we will work hard to get all students back into classrooms following the holiday,” the superintendent said.

The previous night during the Board of Education’s virtual meeting, Rodrigue said the then-pending decision would involve considering “all the factors,” like trends in the community and staffing.

Rodrigue explained that according to epidemiologists and the state Department of Health, “School is still a low, low risk in terms of the spread of infection.

“That has nothing to do with the unique issues that every school district faces,” Rodrigue said, later adding that Newtown Public Schools were changed to learning remotely for November 23 due to staffing levels.

“We are not seeing the spread in school,” said Rodrigue.

Newtown School District Nursing Supervisor Anne Dalton shared that there were 471 quarantine district cases in November, “but no transmission in school.” Rodrigue explained that none of the quarantine cases changed to be positive cases of COVID-19.

Dalton also sent a communication to district staff and families this week, on November 30, to share information about how contact tracing works.

“As the school nurses made phone calls to alert people of the need to isolate or quarantine to limit the spread of infection, it became clear that more information on how contact tracing works might be helpful for all,” Dalton wrote in the letter.

The letter included definitions of contact tracing words, like “case,” as a person who may or may not have symptoms and has tested positive for COVID-19. A “contact” is defined as “a person who was within 6 feet of a positive case for a cumulative 15 minutes or more during the infectious period, which begins 48 hours before symptoms appear.” Dalton’s letter will be published in full in next week’s print edition of The Newtown Bee.

Dalton and Rodrigue also told the school board members that a new section has been added to the bottom right of the school district’s website, newtown.k12.ct.us, called “COVID-19 Data & Information.” Beneath the title, links to “Newtown Public Schools COVID-19 Data,” “Public Health Indicators on COVID-19 Data For LCSA and WCSA Communities,” “COVID-19 Town Information and Resource Guide,” and “Wellness Guide — Resources For Our Community” are available.

According to the information offered on December 1 under the COVID-19 Data & Information option, December has had one case of COVID-19 at Newtown Middle School with no Newtown Public School exposure, so far.

Dalton said the information was added to the website to help share, in chronological order, the date of COVID-19 cases, the date the district learned of the case, which school it was in, how many people were quarantined as a result, and how many staff and how many students were impacted by the quarantine cases.

“It preserves anonymity and confidentiality yet it gives people quick and easy access to that information,” said Dalton.

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