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District officials say they’re looking at additional “outdoor learning” New Canaan Public Schools in seeking to reopen Aug. 31 under a widely discussed phased plan. The schools could have tents set up in areas such as fields and courtyards, and the district is “looking at WiFi availability outside, looking to get it in some places where it doesn’t exist right now,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting Monday. “All of those things will help—will help our kids, help our teachers, help our comfort level, everything else,” Luizzi said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “To get outside on a nice day and do some teaching outdoors.
New Canaan Public Schools needs $1.5 million to $2 million beyond what’s budgeted for the current fiscal year to cover expenses related to COVID-19 virus, as well as funds for additional staffing needed to meet a rise in enrollment, district officials said Monday. The district already has spent about $600,000 in areas such as technology (primarily), supplies, signage, barriers and sanitation stations—half again as much as a $400,000 “non-lapsing” account built into the spending plan for fiscal year 2021, according to NCPS Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating. “Moving forward, the big items that we have are staffing—and we can’t really nail that down right now, because it’s going to depend on a number of different things that we just experience annually, like turnover savings,” Keating told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “And we have added staff but we may have additional turnover savings based on the number of retirements that we have had.”
The district will have a better handle on staffing numbers come September, when it’s more clear just how many kids are attending public schools, Keating said. Major COVID-related technology expenses include WiFi and a classroom livestream learning system with improved audio and visual elements, she said.
“So we are thinking anywhere between $2 million [and] $1.5 million,” she said.
If health data supports it, New Canaan Public Schools will aim to allow students to attend all classes in-person in early October, district officials said Monday. School will look different at that time, officials said during a regular meeting of the Board of Education, held via videoconference. For example, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said, those in school will be wearing masks and observing physical distancing, hallways will be marked one-way, classrooms will be assigned designated bathrooms, visitors will be prohibited and all assemblies will be held virtually. Though Fairfield County has what health officials are calling “low community spread” of COVID-19 virus—meaning the state is allowing local districts to fully reopen with in-person learning—the first several weeks of the upcoming academic year will be spent re-acclimating students and parents, as well as teachers and faculty, to the changed environment, officials said. Available here in a continuously updated operations guide, the four-phase plan is geared toward the school community’s “on-boarding and reengagement,” Luizzi said.
New Canaan Public Schools one week ago published a continuously updated operations guide for the 2020-21 academic school year. Titled “Charting Our Course” and embedded on a new NCPS website page with other COVID 19-related information for school families, it includes timelines leading up to the first day of school, guiding principles for the district as it makes decisions about just how school will look this coming year, modeling, details on masks and social distancing, contact information for liaisons, busing information and more. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi also helped lead town hall-style info sessions with question-and-answer sessions with participants.
We asked Luizzi about the guide, sessions and what New Canaan students and families could be looking at for the upcoming academic year. Here’s our exchange.
New Canaanite: You sent the New Canaan Public Schools community a link to a “live” operations guide called “Charting Our Course” that will be updated in the coming days and weeks with information on how the district will handle the 2020-21 school year. Two of the bullet points appear to be that whether the physical school buildings open, and to what extent, will depend on “community spread” of the virus, and that a decision will be made around Aug.
The New Canaan Board of Education last week debated whether to adopt formal goals for the upcoming school year designed to address issues of race through staff training, changes to curriculum and parent education, among other areas.
Draft goals discussed at the Board’s July 13 meeting (they can be found here, under Goal 4-2, and embedded below as a PDF) include creation of what would be the districts’ first “statement on equity, diversity and inclusion,” as well as an update on Social Studies curriculum and identification of “additional opportunities in other content areas to increase content on diversity and inclusion K-12.”
Some Board members voiced support for adopting the goals, while others said they were concerned about introducing the changes during an academic year that likely will include some form of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic that strains the “bandwidth” of educators and where spending on schools is tight. Sheri West said she strongly supported the new goals and that it’s “crucial that at this moment in history, that we as a Board, as educational leaders in our district that we communicate the importance of these values and really truly that they are at the cornerstone of what we do—our values and our belief system and our actions.”
“I especially like the addition of the professional development and of the parent education,” West said during the 3.5-hour meeting, held via videoconference. “One thing I would like added is I believe in order for us to execute on these goals, we are going to need budget dollars to bring in an expert consultant. I don’t think this is work that we can do alone. I think many districts have already or are hiring DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] leaders for their districts.