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NPS releases reopening plan, notes ‘considerable’ costs

A chart from Norwalk Public Schools’ 2021 reopening plan.

NORWALK, Conn. — A plan to reopen Norwalk Public Schools has been sent to the state, on deadline. Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella plans a town hall-style webinar Wednesday to brief parents about the plan, it states.

Activities and restrictions hinge on the rate of COVID-19 community spread, a three level plan of action that allows families to opt out of in-person schooling even if the risk is considered low. If the spread is thought to be moderate, all pre-K to Grade 5 children would be able to attend school in person, as would English Language Learners and Special Education students. All sixth to 12th graders would be put on remote learning status.

“Plans are under development that will repurpose high schools and potentially middle schools to house 4th and 5th grade learners,” the plan states.

Even if the risk is low, school buses will be no more than 80 percent full, and if it’s moderate, buses will be kept half empty. Masks will be provided at school bus stops.

“Classrooms have been engineered to maintain the appropriate social distancing between desks. Signage helps to maintain appropriate social distancing in all areas,” the plan states, also mentioning the challenge at the high school level given the difficulty in defining cohorts.

The plan notes:

“It is abundantly clear that re-opening the Norwalk Public Schools under any of the scenarios (low COVID-19 spread, moderate COVID-19 spread, or high COVID-19 spread) will impose considerable additional costs on the Norwalk Public Schools, and these additional costs were not included in the FY 2020-21 NPS approved operating budget. As such, these additional costs are presently unfunded but anticipated expenses of reopening school.

“There is considerable uncertainty over the final projected costs of reopening, because the reopening plan is fluid and subject to revision based on changing conditions and evolving guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Education and from State and local health authorities. The availability, pricing, and delivery schedule for various commodities and services that may be needed to support the reopening plan are matters of considerable uncertainty, as school districts throughout the country scramble to procure the same items. In addition, the ability to recruit, hire and pay for the additional staff that may be necessary to support this plan is also an area of considerable uncertainty.”

 

Regarding SpEd students, the plan states, “Equipment to safely engineer classrooms including flexible soundproof partitions and cameras such as swivl cameras or cameras on devices are included in the plan to assure access to live instruction in appropriate environments while maximizing cohort groupings and minimizing interactions across classes for service providers.”

NPS is working to teach students to use face masks.

“Social Stories have been developed in multiple languages and have been implemented during ESY {Extended School Year} to assist SWDs {Students with Disabilities} to tolerate face coverings and follow safety protocols of distancing and hygiene,” the plan states. “…the goal is for 15 minutes on, 5 minutes off for the younger students (Pre-K through 2) until they can tolerate 30 minutes on and 5 minutes off. Students in grades 3-12 will follow the same protocol until they can tolerate 1 hour on and 5 minutes off, exclusive of lunch.”

The English Language Learner (ELL) welcome center has been moved to a bigger venue to allow for social distancing, the plan states, also mentioning, “Engineered classrooms using flexible sound-proof partitions will allow for flexible small group instruction within the classroom reducing the need for pull outs across the school building.”

“We will provide information in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole which to serve the vast majority of our school community. When we need to communicate with parents who do not speak these languages, we employ the use of Language Line and other interpretation and translation services,” it states.

Further:

  • “We expect to repurpose the gym, auditorium, cafeteria. If the school requires additional space, we (are)  investigating options, although availability is limited and would be expensive.”
  • “Protocols maintain that teachers will remain 6 feet from students, and when not possible, the teacher will wear the appropriate PPE.”
  • “Assistance will be provided by staff as students disembark buses on arrival to school to maintain assigned points of entry based on cohort assignments.”
  • High School sports, arts and all clubs will be offered.
  • Schools will not be rented out or to be used by any outside organization.
  • “NPS will follow CIAC established guidelines (all sports are played within Connecticut, no traveling outside Connecticut).”
  • “Students will be limited to groups of 10-12.”
  • “Teachers will need to apply to offer an afterschool activity.”
  • “If students are learning remotely, they will still be allowed to attend afterschool activities. For those families, transportation is responsibility of individual family.”

The plan was a topic during the Board of Education’s retreat. Gov. Ned Lamont has the final say and “some of the decisions aren’t going to be ours… it’s a moving target,” Board member Mike Barbis said.

NPS could buy a building to use for swing space “and eventually it could be the location for one of our schools,” Barbis said.

The plan states that NPS needs to work closely with “our Federal, State, and City partners to identify and secure the additional resources necessary to fund the final approved reopening plan. NPS will certainly need to scour its existing approved budget to identify areas where the pandemic has resulted in budget savings that can be re-programmed to support the COVID-19 reopening plan. But it is apparent that the magnitude of the cost of the reopening plan will greatly exceed any such internal budget savings that can be identified.”

It states, “In the absence of significant additional funding from Federal, State, or City sources, the District will be unable to cover these extraordinary costs without making draconian cuts to many existing district programs and services.”

2020-21 Norwalk School Reopening Report 7-24-20 FINAL

A flow chart from Norwalk Public Schools’ 2021 reopening plan.

10 comments

Non Partisan July 26, 2020 at 10:55 am

It’s great to see the NPS being proactive and planning

I support all of these initiatives. School needs to be a safe place

Just curious what percentage of the cost is because of our sanctuary city policies. Maybe the NPS can provide that metric too?

Policies have consequences. Not just platitudes and votes

John ONeill July 26, 2020 at 11:47 am

Considering our State and Federal “partners” have brought little or no support over the past few years, why should we expect this “ask” to be any different? Mayor Rilling put in a call to Congressman Himes on ELL crisis last September. It seems like he’s still anxiously awaiting for that call back..As Larry David would say “pretty, pretty, pretty disappointing!
On a more positive note: I’m doubling up today on my American Hero of the day. Eleanor and Franklin D Roosevelt were a dynamic tandem that coached America thru a tough time. They may have slept in different beds, but together they loved our great country AND each other..

Townie July 27, 2020 at 10:59 am

Someone please explain to us why you will need over $2,000,000 in additional funding for cleaning, when you already have a full compliment of professionally trained, motivated and competent custodians at every school? Why would you need to purchase any additional cleaning supplies or equipment when you already have in stock, or have an approved 2020/2021 custodial cleaning supply budget that includes the basic cleansers and solutions necessary to sanitize? Who is going to supervise and inspect the work to ensure that an acceptable level of cleanliness is maintained and can you tell us what has been or will be set as your level of expectations? If you have had absolutely little and some cases no supervision of the school cleanliness and performance being accomplished by the central office facilities dept in the past, how do you ever expect a standard of cleanliness and sanitation to occur during these meetings re critical times? Do your custodians work unsupervised? Do they work on an honor system? Who is minding the store? If what I’ve heard about the supervision that has been provided by the central office facilities director and foreman is true, good luck people. I’ve seen first hand how filthy the schools have been in the past, up to the end of 2019. I’d like to know if your facilities director, who I believe is named Bill Hodel even visits the schools with the specific intent to inspect the work and performance of the custodians and to evaluate the level of cleanliness. I would be shocked if the central office could produce any level & degree of inspection cleanliness documentation or reports, which could provide any evidence that they were providing any supervision of the custodians at the schools, conducting any periodic uniformed inspection of their work, or documentation to establish the level of cleanliness, ……like a report card our teachers give our kids, with grades, strengths & weaknesses, expectations, goals, etc. Seems to me that we have the sufficient number of custodians in each school , they are given the proper and adequate funding, provided with sufficient tools, supplies, equipment and training. So why isn’t the job getting done? Should be blame the school principals, the head custodians, the teachers who complain, but get no response?

with dates and times, attendees, what was inspected, conditions found, actions required, etc. something similar to what are neighboring school districts have been doing for years.

Joe July 27, 2020 at 3:01 pm

More reasons for HOME SCHOOLING.

Better value, more effective disciplined education and no more democrat propaganda and weird sex stuff forced on the kids.

carol July 27, 2020 at 6:45 pm

would not send my kids to school if they were still of age. stay home,protect your families.

CT-Patriot July 27, 2020 at 11:51 pm

Keeping kids home is much worse than sending them to school as reports have shown most Covid case flare-ups were from people staying home. Plus, children need to be with their peers. You can’t keep them locked up in solitary confinement all year long.

So, if schools do not open, please return all tax dollars we paid out for the school year. Why do I pay taxes for sending children to school for an education and the BOE determines to not to do that?

Those wishing to homeschool, I would suggest you speak to other local people that share the same idea, pool your resources to find additional parents willing and start your own version of schooling children at home. I know a group of parents doing this in another state. Works well.

No more indoctrination of Democrat ideology and socialism. You decide the curriculum. There’s lots to be said of well planned and implemented home schooling.

CT-Patriot July 28, 2020 at 10:17 pm

Joe, you’d be surprised on just how well this group of parents have gotten together, coordinated their plan on who and what qualifies as someone to teach, the curriculum agreed to, purchase of books, art, music, physical education, all thought out by parents not willing to watch their children waste away.

Parents who qualified split days/time teaching their students.

Interesting to hear the reaction by the children, their respect, it’s refreshing to see and hear they all respect the “teachers”, respect for each other as well.

I feel in time these children will out perform any public and most likely private taught child.

I believe if parents get together, discuss the possibilities with a well thought plan then children can be educated in new ways that surpass the old ways.

JustATaxpayer July 28, 2020 at 11:39 pm

Time to build a home school network. With many people working from hone, an hour of teaching would be easy

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