Stamford elementary schools full-time return delayed one day

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda
Music teacher Darren Stec speaks to students at Stillmeadow Elementary School in Stamford, Conn. on Thursday, October 8, 2020.

Music teacher Darren Stec speaks to students at Stillmeadow Elementary School in Stamford, Conn. on Thursday, October 8, 2020.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

STAMFORD — Monday won’t be the first day of full-time in-person learning at elementary schools in Stamford after all, as the district sent out a communication to teachers and staff that Monday would be a remote learning day instead.

In the email, Superintendent Tamu Lucero said the decision was made in order to give teachers and administrators more time to get ready for re-opening.

Stamford elementary school students return to five-day-a-week in-person teaching next week, followed a week later by middle school students. No plan is in place yet to get high school students back full-time.

Up until Jan, 8, Stamford students had the option of attending classes in-person every other day under the hybrid model, or participating in the fully remote distance learning academy. But students were told they would have to stick to one of those models after the January deadline.

Only students in the hybrid model will be allowed to return to classes every school day. Those in the academy, roughly 25 percent of the district, will remain in remote learning.

In her Wednesday message to elementary staff, which was not sent to parents, Lucero acknowledged that allowing more students in buildings will be a challenging adjustment for schools. By Thursday afternoon, the district had officially sent out an email to the community announcing the one-day reopening delay.

“While I know we all understand and appreciate the need to bring all of our hybrid students back to school every day, I also recognize and understand that another transition is not easy and will require time to prepare,” she wrote.

Lucero said she made the move in order to “ensure all elementary schools and staff members have ample time for final preparations to transition to five-days-a-week, in-person learning.”

The plan for Monday is for elementary teachers to welcome students virtually in the morning, then give them assignments to do on their own for the rest of the day. During that time, teachers will be able to plan for the full in-person return on Tuesday.

“This will provide the opportunity for you to use the remainder of the day to collaborate with colleagues and building administrators to discuss and finalize any new protocols for arrival, dismissal, recess, lunch, and to finish any remaining classroom preparation,” Lucero wrote.

She ended the message by writing, “Thank you for all you are doing to bring hybrid students one step closer to a semblance of normalcy.”

Last week, Lucero said the decision to open school to more students was made “due to the continued reductions in COVID-19 positivity rates in Stamford.”

A few weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines about reopening schools. Lucero said those guidelines included recommendations for schools related to community transmission. She said Stamford’s transmission rate dropped from “substantial” to “moderate” risk in the CDC’s latest recommendations.

Under the moderate risk threshold of 10 to 49 new cases per 100,000 in the previous seven days, the CDC recommended “K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction,” with “physical distancing of 6 feet or more to the greatest extent possible.” Stamford’s most recently reported rate per 100,000, for the two weeks from Feb. 7 to Feb. 20, was 32.5.

The superintendent also said that in order to allow more students into school buildings, the district’s current rule of 6 feet of separation between desks will no longer apply, as students would be closer than the 6 feet recommended. But safety practices such as mask-wearing and and proper hygiene will still be enforced. Contact tracing and quarantine protocols will also remain the same.

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com