Update Learning Phase - POst Thanksgiving Holiday

Update Learning Phase - Post Thanksgiving Holiday
Posted on 11/18/2020
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Dear Community, 

 

As promised, this is an update on our current and post-Thanksgiving phase of learning status for the district.

 

It is a letter written with many mixed emotions that we have all felt while living through an international pandemic that has spanned the past eight months. It is also written from the viewpoint of a parent, a local resident of Litchfield County, an educator, and the proud Superintendent of two districts that works with, and for, amazing students, parents, staff, and community.

 

In sitting down to further plan the future, it was important for me to reflect on some of the past:

 

·      We were among the first to re-open in Phase 1: In-Person based on the collaboration of our students, staff, and community.

 

·      As of this writing, there have been only four (4) confirmed cases for both districts (1 for LPS and 3 for RSD6). These cases were independent of the schools and through community interaction.

 

·      We have demonstrated effective protocols, procedures, safeguards, and contact tracing, with an ability to transition to Phase 3: Remote Learning when necessary.

 

·      There has not been any identification of school transmission.

 

·      As a district, we have and continue to involve our students, staff, parents, and community in the decision making process.

 

Meanwhile, other realities are impacting our day-to-day future:

 

·      As of yesterday, local community cases are being reported by the Department of Public Health (DPH) at the highest level to date.

 

Town

New COVID-19 Cases per 100K population (14-day average)

% Test Positivity

Goshen

60

11%

Litchfield

24.55

2%

Morris

16

6%

Warren

6.45

1%

 

 

·      The testing or quarantine of staff, for many reasons, places an unsustainable staffing burden on our schools.

 

·      As we head into winter, with the cold season, we have many individuals being tested daily for everything inclusive of flu, strep, and COVID-19.

 

The work and data change daily.  

 

On the DPH chart, it is important to know that “small town data” skews based on population, and colors quickly grab people’s attention. Updates from the State of Connecticut, State Department of Education, and DPH, are not always timely with case data sometimes lagging. Therefore, it is essential to dive further into the data to know what community case data really means for our schools.

 

For example, one new daily case in Goshen, based on the town population, means approximately “20-21 new cases per 100,000.”  When we see a number of “60” on the DPH chart, it is alarming in the color red.   At the same time, it means roughly three new community cases per day over a 14-day average.  As a reminder, DPH uses a rolling average on its chart with low or high case days continually falling off over time.

 

The public data and COVID-19 news has also caused many to speculate about what other districts may choose, or not choose, to do with their instructional models. Just yesterday, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) made an announcement about winter sports being delayed until at least January 19th. We must caution when comparing district vs. district, or town vs. town. In recent days we have witnessed districts closing, moving to remote, and posting re-opening dates that span over a month. We must instead think about how every decision has a short-term, and long-term, effect on children, staff, families, and the community.

 

As educators, we know that nothing can replace “in-person instruction” and its positive impact on student learning. We also know from experience that the isolation of “remote learning” is not beneficial to our students and their social and emotional well-being.

 

With a holistic view, we must not just look at one chart, or announcement, but also school data, cases, community spread, and how decisions impact our children and the future.  We have, and will continually make informed decisions based on the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and community.

 

At this time, based on all data points there is not overwhelming evidence for a unilateral change from Phase 1 to Phase 3 for our schools.  Therefore, the district will remain in Phase 1 for all students post-Thanksgiving and for as long as the data supports this decision.

 

In announcing the decision, it is imperative the community understands since reopening, we have clearly stated that every part of this work, remaining in any phase, is day-to-day. I know it is not ideal, but there are factors beyond everyone’s control that dictate our phase of operation.

 

Those factors are:

 

·      A positive case or exposure in a school requires contact tracing.

 

·      The results of contact tracing and potential quarantines.

 

·      Staffing numbers and available coverage for the safety and well being of students.

 

What we can control remains as follows:

 

·      Adherence to guidelines on hand washing, social distancing, and face coverings (in and out of school)

 

·      Limiting gatherings, social events, and potential community exposure

 

·      Following State of Connecticut guidelines on travel

             (https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/travel)

 

I know that in 2020, we are tired and all would like some certainty.  I know that is not always possible and we must continue to be flexible for our children and their education.  We have come a long way and together, we will cautiously continue forward.

 

Stay strong. Stay healthy. Our best days are still yet to come.

 

Chris

 

 

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