State Education Department Ask Local Schools to Prepare for Possible Closures

CTNewsJunkie.com first reported on Monday, March 9 that the CT State Department of Education is asking local school districts to prepare for possible long-term closures. On Monday, the CT-DOE released an updated document on preparations for COVID-19 that includes a section on preparing for possible school closures.

The document says that while school closures in Connecticut have not been directed by federal or state officials, any decisions to close one or more schools “will not be made in a silo.” If there is no emergency declaration by the governor or federal government, decisions to close schools are local ones, “…made by school districts in coordination with and at the direction of the local health officials.” The document also recommends consultation with the CT departments of Public Health and Education.

The document acknowledges that the CT State Board of Education is allowed under state law “to authorize a shorter school year i.e., one with less than 180 days, where there are emergency circumstances. Schools should exhaust all other options to make up any lost school days.” Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The document outlines some of the concerns the Wilton Public School district would be dealing with in preparation for school closure, including material development and ability for students to access curriculum and content (e.g. online); local union concerns; attendance policies; mandated assessments; child nutrition services and continuity of food services for vulnerable students and families; and special education considerations, among many others.

Wilton’s school district administration released a document to the school community on Monday evening, March 9, acknowledging that preparations are being made in the possibility that the district might need to close buildings.

They said that any such decision would be made in consultation with local and state education and health departments and town officials, and that any decision about school closure will be based upon the most up-to-date information available.

The Wilton district is developing plans to “maintain continuity of instruction,” using technology in grades 3-12 “to mitigate potential disruptions in learning,” and hard copy materials for grades Pre-K-2.

The district will train staff on these protocols this Wednesday, March 11, after students have been sent home according to an early release schedule, and communication to parents will be sent home that evening (March 11).

Parents of students in grades 3-12 who would need a loaned device in the event of school closure are asked to complete a digital access survey. This survey should only be completed by parents of students who need a loaned device.

All students and teaching staff are being asked to bring home devices and essential texts every evening, in preparation for potential unexpected school closings.