New Canaan’s elementary schoolchildren have been using outdoor spaces for independent learning, though a lack of WiFi has pre-empted the ability to live-stream classes, district officials say.
The kids are going outside for “mask breaks’ and “the teacher might have given directions to the classroom saying, ‘Screens down, we’re going to go outside and do our independent reading and we would like you guys to finish your independent reading at home,’ ” Dr. Jill Correnty, the New Canaan Public Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told members of a Board of Education committee last week.
“And then they have been using timers on the smart board for the young kids, so that the timer actually goes off and that’s the 20 minutes, and that’s the signal for coming back together as a class,” Correnty told the school board’s Reopen Committee during a Sept. 15 meeting, held via videoconference. “And so I have seen a lot of those countdowns happening in the classrooms. And they are using beyond the courtyards. So they all have their own kind of assigned little spaces that they go to outside. And sometimes it’s just to play a game, sometimes it’s to do something in their writer’s notebook, sometimes it’s to read a book independently. And then the kids at home are doing that as well, they are just doing it in their workspace at home.”
She added with a smile, “Although I think they are sometimes taking mask breaks, too, even though they don’t wear masks at home. They run downstairs and grab a snack.”
The comments came as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi presented a plan to have all kindergarten, first- and second-graders start attending school in person at the same time starting Monday, and phasing in the third and fourth grades to full in-person learning Thursday.
Board of Ed Chair Katrina Parkhill asked how outdoor learning is going at the elementary level.
“I know it’s really nice I the middle and the high school,” Parkhill said. “The kids enjoy being outside and learning and having those breaks.”
Luizzi said he’d visited East School during the school day and observed that “there is activity everywhere.”
“There are groups of kids outside, they are moving through not just for mask breaks but for other things,” he said. “So just from a high level, it seems to be going very well. And the principals are reporting out that they are using the outdoor spaces.”
Board of Ed member Julie Reeves asked whether there’s a chance of improving WiFi at the elementary schools.
Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, the district’s director of finance and operations, said it will become a priority after WiFi needs are addressed at the secondary level. NCPS could raise the possibility with the Board of Finance and Town Council.
“It’s very expensive to put it out there, to be very honest with you,” Keating said. “But we will bring it forward as something to consider, as we move forward with the funding bodies.”