Coronavirus Update–March 11, 2020: Cancelled SATs, No HS Sports and State of Emergency

Here’s what happened in the realm of coronavirus news in the last 24 hours for Wilton:

Town of Wilton

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice took part in a call on Monday evening (March 9) that Gov. Ned Lamont led with all of Connecticut’s mayors, first selectmen, school superintendents, and emergency management directors statewide. Also on the call were the state’s commissioner of health, the commissioner of education and the emergency management director. Vanderslice said the governor reviewed his thoughts after speaking to governors in states where there has already been an outbreak, and getting their recommendations. “He’s taken those lessons learned and it’s informing the actions that he’s taking,” Vanderslice said.

She noted that Lamont has stopped all out-of-state travel by state employees and was recommending no gatherings above 100 people, in state offices as well as for municipalities. “Of course in Wilton, we’re already saying the same thing,” Vanderslice said.

In fact, the day before, Vanderslice had begun to implement several measures for town employees and departments.

  • Asking town employees to take their temperature two times a day, morning and night. She said the town has provided employees with thermometers to encourage the practice. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 is told not to come to work.
  • The town has changed cleaning products used in all town buildings, including Comstock and the schools, using a sanitizer with stronger disinfecting properties. In addition, officials have increased the number of cleanings that are happening in some of our buildings.
  • Town employees have been asked to practice social distancing, by standing or sitting at least six feet apart from one another. Signs have been posted at all town buildings that explain the need to increase personal space between people.

The governor also suggested that each chief elected officer of each town explore the legal parameters in case of a state of emergency. Not only would the governor have additional powers in such an instance, but so would Wilton’s first selectwoman. “As the CEO of the town, I have certain powers. Gov. Lamont suggested that each of us talk to our town counsel about what does that mean,” Vanderslice said. “So we’re going to be doing that. [Town counsel] Ira Bloom comes in every Wednesday morning, so that’s one of the things that’s on the agenda for us to discuss.”

Gov. Lamont Declares State of Emergency

On Tuesday, March 10, Gov. Ned Lamont declared civil preparedness and public health emergencies. The emergency declarations provide the governor with the authority to take specific, swift actions determined necessary to protect the safety and health of residents in the state, including the temporary suspension of certain state laws and regulations.

The declarations also make clear that the chief executive officers of municipalities have emergency powers under Connecticut General Statutes Section 28-8a to take such actions as they deem necessary to mitigate disasters and emergencies.

While the declarations permit the governor to take certain actions related to the closure of schools and large gatherings, at this time those decisions are still being delegated to local municipal and public health officials as they are on the ground closest to the circumstances in each respective community and are empowered to make the best judgements regarding specific events.

Also, a second Connecticut resident tested positive Monday (March 9), a female in her 60s who is a healthcare worker at Bridgeport Hospital and a resident of Bethlehem. She recently returned from a trip to Nevada, where it is believed she contracted COVID-19. She is being treated at Bridgeport Hospital.

Updated testing data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health State Laboratory will be available soon. The latest data continues to be posted on the state’s website.

Wilton Public Schools

Wilton Public School administrators sent an email to the school community on Tuesday evening, March 10, with updates on additional steps that had been taken across the district. The complete email is reprinted at the end of this article, but the highlights include:

  • Wilton High School cancelled the SAT that it was scheduled to administer on Saturday, March 14. Administrators said that 290 students had registered to take the test, only 46 of whom were Wilton High School students. The remaining 244 students were from across the state of Connecticut as well as neighboring states including New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
    Administrators say they made the decision to cancel the test based on guidance from Gov. Ned Lamont, who today announced recommendations that municipalities “reconsider gatherings larger than 100 people,” and guidance from the Wilton Department of Health.
    Students who were registered will receive information from the College Board by mail or email in the coming days with options for where and when they can take the test.
  • On Wednesday, March 11, the schools have a long-scheduled early dismissal of students to allow teachers to participate in a professional learning session on Wednesday afternoon. During that training, staff will review the district’s plans to maintain continuity of instruction. Administrators will share more information about this plan electronically with parents Wednesday evening.
  • Assistant superintendent of special services Andrea Leonardi sent a separate letter to the school community about plans her Department of Student Services is making specifically for students with special needs and their families, in the event that the schools close. “Our goal is to help you plan for the worst while hoping for the best,” she wrote. “This is unprecedented and while I fully recognize a shut-down will be difficult for all families, I know that a shut-down of any length will put added stress and pressure on students with disabilities and their families. We are here to help in any way we possibly can to support everyone through this time.”She wrote that there are several strategies her staff is exploring, including (but not limited to):
    • online learning options and tools
    • “Go bags” of materials and picture schedules
    • Daily suggestions for structures to support students
    • Virtual related services (SLP, OT, PT)
    • Fun activities that support learning and skills
    • For students with social/emotional behavioral challenges, the district is working on a schedule of contact (email, facetime, phone, etc.) with school psychologists and social workers
    • For students attending an out-of-district placement, Wilton staff is contacting each of the schools to learn of their plans

    She also outlined efforts to provide ways for families to regularly contact case managers and teams, as well as to communicate regularly with families through a three-times-per-week newsletter and a special email set up for parents whose children receive services to send feedback, questions and suggestions.

  • The schools delivered an additional supply of the cleaning agent Q.T.3 to Student Transportation of America, our bus company. All schools have been restocked with tissues, soap, and paper towels.
  • The district has adjusted working hours of custodial staff to accommodate special cleaning procedures.
  • The CIAC (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) announced that all remaining CIAC winter tournament games and events are cancelled. The CIAC website referenced “discussions with numerous agencies and considering the circumstances of our member schools, our championship venues, and weighing the health and safety of our student-athletes, parents, and fans given the uncertainty that surrounds the spread of this virus.” Below is the announcement from CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini:

Text of the letter sent to the school community by Wilton Public School administrators:

Dear Parents, Guardians, Caregivers and Colleagues,

We are sending you this message to update you on the district’s continued response to COVID-19 and other related developments that impact our school community.

      • Earlier today, the CIAC (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) announced that all remaining CIAC winter tournament games are cancelled. For more information, please see the CIAC
      • The administration of the SAT at Wilton High School originally scheduled for March 14, 2020 has been cancelled. We recognize this decision comes as a disappointment to many students who have engaged in extensive preparation for this test.  It is important to note that we had 290 registered test-takers, only 46 of whom were Wilton High School students. The remaining 244 students came from across the state of Connecticut as well as neighboring states like New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  We made the decision to cancel this administration of the test based on the size of the group and guidance from the Wilton Department of Health, as well as recent guidance from Governor Ned Lamont, who now encourages communities to reconsider gatherings larger than 100 people.After contacting the College Board on behalf of families who are interested in continuing to pursue the exam, we learned that students who were registered will receive information from the College Board by mail or email in the coming days with options for where, when, and if they can take the test. Options will be based on the availability of test centers.  Please note that test centers are closing nationwide. For more information about closures, please visit the College Board website.  Note that this website may represent a partial list of closures; as of this afternoon, Wilton had not been added to it.
      • During the scheduled professional learning session taking place tomorrow afternoon, staff will review the district’s plans to maintain continuity of instruction. More information about this plan will be shared electronically with parents tomorrow evening.
      • We recently delivered an additional supply of the cleaning agent Q.T.3 to Student Transportation of America, our bus company. All schools have been restocked with tissues, soap, and paper towels.
      • We have adjusted the working hours of custodial staff to accommodate special cleaning procedures.
      • As we continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation, we want to share the CDC’s recommendation that households develop plans to address the potential impact of COVID-19. The CDC’s guidelines for creating a household plan of action can be found on its website.
      • We recognize that many members of our school and parent community continue to have questions about the presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Wilton. While it is not our practice to share information that has not been officially confirmed to us, we want to alert you to the fact that area media outlets have published information related to whether this person has children in our schools.  We cannot attest to the veracity of this information, as nothing has been officially confirmed to us, but we want to direct you to CT and local news outlets if you wish to read what has been published on this matter.
      • Late this afternoon, we learned that Governor Ned Lamont declared civil preparedness and public health emergencies. Information below comes directly from a press release on Connecticut’s Official State Website:

Governor Lamont declares civil preparedness and public health emergencies

This afternoon, Governor Lamont signed declarations invoking both a civil preparedness emergency and a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The emergency declarations provide the governor with the authority to take specific, swift actions determined necessary to protect the safety and health of residents in the state, including the temporary suspension of certain state laws and regulations. The Office of the Governor is compiling and evaluating specific recommendations from agencies and municipalities about statutes or regulations that should be suspended or modified and the governor may issue related orders in the near future.”

We are in the process of assessing what impact these declarations have on our school district and will send further correspondence within the next 24 hours. As of now, school will be in session tomorrow.  If anything changes regarding our plans for school tomorrow, we will send you information through School Messenger.

As always, should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Assistant Superintendent Charles Smith (curriculum and instruction), Assistant Superintendent  Andrea Leonardi (special services), Director of Human Resources and General Administration Maria Coleman (emergency operations), or your building principal.

Best regards,

Kevin J. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Charles Smith
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

Maria Coleman
Director of Human Resources and General Administration