Weston prepares for youngest students' full return next week

The Weston Board of Education held its monthly meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 19, 2020.

The Weston Board of Education held its monthly meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 19, 2020.

DJ Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — Weston’s youngest students will fully return to school on Monday and the middle school students will expand their hybrid model to a full day.

Superintendent William Mckersie said despite cases rising across the state the district has been good at maintaining its mitigating measures like mask wearing on school grounds.

“Because of those mitigating factors being so strong in Weston, it’s smart of us to try now for that full return because even if we get COVID-19 infections, we would be returning for K-5 to that normal full back in,” he said at a Board of Education meeting Monday where the district’s administration laid out its plan for the shift.

Mckersie said there still wasn’t strong enough support for a full return for middle schools or high schools although districts statewide similarly continue to review this choice.

“But as the metrics tick up we see it’s typically those older students that if it comes into the district it comes in that way,” he said.

Laura Kaddis, Hurlbutt Elementary school principal, said she and her staff have been in the process of reworking schedules in preparation for a full return.

“It is a very different schedule than a regular full opening without COVID happening,” Kaddis said.

Classrooms are being redesigned to ensure as much social distancing as possible, she said. Kindergarten through first grade will have lunch in their classrooms, while second grade will leave their classrooms due to spacing.

Meanwhile, principals noted a trend of some students leaving remote learning as the shift approaches.

Pattie Falber, Weston Intermediate School’s principal, said around 15 students who started the year remote learning have since returned with a few more expected in the coming week. But some students have also chosen to be home schooled.

Falber said WIS looked to be in sync with Hurlbutt Elementary in its planning.

“So a lot of logistics, but I think we’re in good shape,” she said.

Dan Doak, Weston Middle School’s principal, said the schedule for the middle school was modified slightly to allow for mask breaks in the new hybrid, full day model. He said the middle school has seen some students return from remote learning.

“I’m hoping that means our parents feel comfortable, students feel comfortable with the safety precautions and the instruction they are hoping to experience in person,” he said.

Lisa Wolak, Weston High School’s principal, said the high school looks to move to a full day, hybrid model on Nov. 16. She said the school currently has 6 percent of its student population voluntarily distance learning, down from 8 percent.

“Out of the 799 students that are listed, 51 are currently (voluntarily distance learning),” Wolak said. “We are finding every week two, three, four more are coming in person.”

But BOE members questioned if the number of students leaving remote learning was attributed to a move to home schooling.

“I’d be very surprised if this drop you’ve seen in voluntary distance learning just in the last week if that is substantially home schoolers,” Mckersie said.

He said most of the students who have left remote learning have moved into their respective school’s hybrid model as opposed to home schooling.

BOE member Taffy Miller said families pursuing home schooling shouldn’t be viewed as a failure on the district’s part.

“I don’t want you as admins, or all of us as a team, to think of that as a failure in any way but rather families who have just found this is the best option for their children, which we want,” Miller said, adding the families could return.

BOE Chair Tony Pesco said a full picture on home schooling and the district’s current enrollment will be important moving forward.

“I think it will also inform us on how the enrollment picture may look over the next year or so,” he said.