Weston school board's virtual public forum tries to reassure parents

The Board of Education hosted a virtual public forum to answer some of the community's questions on reopening.

The Board of Education hosted a virtual public forum to answer some of the community's questions on reopening.

DJ Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — With the return to schools around the corner, Weston parents continue to worry how a new approach to schooling may affect their child.

In a virtual forum earlier this week, the Board of Education and school officials tried addressing the concerns, but cautioned a perfect plan may not be feasible.

“Like I said last week, nobody is going to be completely happy with the way in which we re-enter schools,” BOE Chair Tony Pesco said at a school board meeting Tuesday. “But ... I’ve lived in Weston for 28 years, and I can assure you every administrator, every staff member, is working overtime to make sure that our students are safe and their needs are met in every way.”

Pesco said conversations about school protocol will continue over the next couple of weeks, but he said he hopes parents will become more comfortable with the new model.

School officials have received an influx of emails from parents since presenting its hybrid reopening model last week, according to Superintendent William Mckersie. The district has since posted a list of frequently asked questions on its site and will continue to update it as school draws near.

Weston principals and administrators each took turns addressing what they described as several common themes in the questions they had received by parents.

Kenneth Craw, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, tackled questions about the voluntary distance learning model.

Craw said once the district knows which students are chosing that option, they will be assigned their respective teachers. Students under the voluntary distance learning model will stream into their classrooms, he said.

“We are striving to be as interactive as possible with those students and I think that’s important to note,” Craw said. “The one way we are going to start that during the day is with our morning meetings.”

He said the streaming will continue to become more interactive over time as teachers also become more familiar with the process.

Families also had a number of questions regarding special education services. Tracy Edwards, director of pupil personnel services, said the district has a new template for delivering services it has called the learning model IEP implementation plan.

“That has to be developed for each individual student in the district who has an IEP,” she said. “The purpose of that document is, again, to outline not a difference in service time, but how that service may be implemented differently within our different modes of instruction — be it full distance learning, voluntary distance learning or hybrid.”

School officials outlined several changes to accommodate students including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for classes and back-up masks available as needed.

Philip Cross, schools director of finance and operations, said students will be required to ride with the same groups on the bus in the morning and afternoons. Buses will be cleaned between each run and students will not be allowed to change seats during transit, he said.

“To alleviate social distancing pressures on buses, the district will strongly encourage parents or guardians to transport their child to school,” Cross said.

In the past week, every family in the district was also sent detailed updates from their child’s principal. Mckersie said communication would continue as the first day of school draws near.

“We anticipate we will keep getting questions as we roll into the fall because, as I have to keep repeating, none of us have ever done this before,” he said.