Seymour school board discusses reopening plan
By Rich Palzewic
SEYMOUR – The Seymour school board discussed a reopening plan at its July 27 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are in a difficult time in our education history,” said Laurie Asher, superintendent. “We have spent months looking at the best ways to serve the students in our district. Things will continue to evolve and may change, but we feel we have the basics of a well-thought-out plan.”
Similar to other area districts, Seymour is instituting three plan models for the 2020-21 school year.
Students from 4K through fifth grade will attend school in-person for all instruction, while those in sixth grade and above will use a hybrid approach.
A virtual option will be available for any student who cannot yet return in-person or prefers virtual instruction and for everybody in the event of future closures due to COVID-19.
“There will be two cohort groups for the hybrid approach,” Asher said. “Group A will attend in-person on Monday and Tuesday and be virtual Wednesday through Friday. Group B will be virtual Monday through Wednesday and in-person on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be used for digital learning and individual one-on-one or in-person as needed.”
Asher said grading will return to the usual approach with letter grades for grades 6-12.
“The district will be flexible between in-school instruction and at-home virtual, based on positive COVID-19 cases,” she said.
Asher said social distancing will take place as much as possible.
“Physical barriers will be placed in areas where 6 feet of separation will be difficult to maintain,” she said. “In the classroom, desks and tables will be placed in the appropriate positions. We’ll have floor adhesives as needed in common areas to designate social distancing guidelines.”
Asher said signage related to proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 will be placed throughout each building.
Additionally, limited visitors and limited interactions by students and staff outside of the classroom will be stressed.
In regards to face coverings, Asher said there have been changes since the original plan was unveiled July 7.
“We originally were requiring face coverings for staff and recommending it for all students, but now we are making it mandatory for all students as well,” she said. “The use of masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is important, especially during times when 6 feet of social distancing is not possible. There will be instances where students might be working alone in the classroom where they can have mask breaks.”
Sara Phillips, the district’s integration specialist, opened the meeting by reading an open letter on behalf of the local teachers’ union, the Seymour Education Association (SEA).
The letter said teachers are concerned about the health of everyone in the school, and they want to teach and make connections with students, but to do that, they must be healthy and protected.
The letter also said the SEA requested the board make face coverings mandatory for all students.
For secondary students, breakfast and lunch will be served in the cafeteria, with students eating in small cohort groups in their classroom.
For elementary students, a combination will be used for meals.
Students will either have meals delivered to their classrooms or eat in the cafeteria when appropriate.
Recess will be held daily with cohort groups in their own space on the playground.
Transportation will use social distancing and students will be asked to mask with riding the bus.
In the case of suspected COVID-19 cases while at school, students and staff will be removed from the classroom and placed into isolation.
The school nurse or health assistant will then complete an assessment and the appropriate steps will be taken.
The district is requesting families make their choice of all virtual or in-person learning by Aug. 4.