08/10/2021 04:27 p.m. EST
North Branford Public Schools (NBPS) will start the school year on Wednesday Sept. 1 with full in-person learning, no option for voluntary remote learning and face masks required to be worn in all school buildings and on buses, regardless of vaccination status. The details were shared among NBPS 2021-22 school opening highlights outlined in a letter issued to district families Aug. 6 from the NBPS District COVID-19 Task Force.
Task Force members are Superintendent of Schools Scott Schoomaker; District COVID-19 Liaison/Totoket Valley Elementary School principal Carter Welch; Director of Curriculum and Instruction Tracy Wootton; and School Nurse Supervisor Cindi Tirollo.
"We know there are many questions, concerns, and differing opinions on what school may look like this year. We hope that this letter provides some answers to those questions," the task force noted.
NBPS will not be participating in COVID-19 testing. The district will continue to communicate all positive cases as they are reported. Masking and other COVID-19 protocols practiced by NBPS, such as contact tracing, will continue to follow guidance received through the Governor Ned Lamont's office, CT Department of Public Health, East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
"Currently, NBPS will continue with masking requirements per Governor Lamont's Executive Order 12a that requires face masks must be worn by anyone inside a school building, regardless of their vaccination status. This order is in effect until September 30, 2021," the task force wrote. "We will continue to monitor any updated Executive Orders and guidance from our local, state and federal health partners on best practices for masking in our schools."
The only exceptions will be those with documented medical conditions preventing them from wearing face coverings or masks which must completely cover the mouth and nose.
In addition to providing mask breaks during the school day, students won't need to wear masks when outside, as long as "appropriate social distancing" is in effect. Students and staff are expected to practice social distancing (currently recommended by the CDC as a distance of 3 feet), when entering, exiting and moving through school buildings as well as in classrooms.
Current building spatial arrangements for the start of the year include arranging desks and students to face the same way, planning arrangements for social distancing between teachers and students, and additional desks and chairs to ensure 3 feet of social distancing.
The decision not to offer voluntary remote learning was based on guidance from the CT State Department of Education, the letter stated, additionally noting, "...the district, as well as the State Department of Education are prioritizing efforts to diagnose, evaluate and address student learning gaps that may have resulted from disruptions to the education process during the past 18 months." NBPS has also added resources to bolster teaching, learning and social/emotional support.
The letter also shares building cleaning protocols and notes all school heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will be "...running throughout and beyond the end of the school day to maximize full ventilation and air quality."
Additional mitigation strategies will be employed by adapting plans specific to each school to "maximize safety, efficiency and learning for all students," with guidance provided from each school to families regarding plans for cafeteria use, recess/outdoors, hand washing/sanitizing expectations, arrival/dismissal procedures, technology and student devices, and social-emotional learning and wellness.
"We will continue to share changing recommendations and guidance as they become available," the task force shared, in closing. "We also continue to ask for your patience, understanding and flexibility as we adapt to changes and the impact of the current COVID-19 variant. We look forward to seeing everyone soon!"