Weston schools to re-open with hybrid attendance plan

An exterior of Weston High School in Weston, Conn. shot Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012.

An exterior of Weston High School in Weston, Conn. shot Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012.

Autumn Driscoll / Autumn Driscoll

WESTON — With the district set to reopen in the coming weeks, the Board of Education reviewed the administration’s proposed hybrid model for reopening on Thursday.

“At this point, all in this region are opening up hybrid,” Superintendent William Mckersie said. “That’s our strong recommendation, looking as we get into October to considering a full-day hybrid and keeping an eye on a full reopening.”

Mckersie said a phased approach was key to maintain the state’s low COVID rates as compared with the rest of the nation. Health had to be a primary concern,” he said, in addition to academic learning and social and emotional learning because of the pandemic.

“We’re in this situation with schooling because of public health, because of medical concerns, so that has to be our first concern,” Mckersie said.

At the middle school and high school level, students would be split into two cohorts alphabetically with each group alternating days for in-person learning in the morning. The second half of the day would see students engage in distance learning.

“This truly is a hybrid,” Weston Middle School Principal Dan Doak said. “There’s an option for everybody to attend both in-person classes in the morning every other day, or afternoon distance learning every day for everybody.”

Doak said the model helps the district avoid having to implement a lunch period, which would be challenging given the number of students and social distancing requirements.

At the elementary level, students would be split into two groups alphabetically with each group alternating days for in-person learning in the morning.

Board members questioned safety protocols put into place for students, including social distancing and having lunch in the classroom.

BOE member Gina Albert said there may be some unease from parents regarding what work their child may be doing when they are distance learning in their groups.

“I don’t think they’re going to be happy with their student having that morning at home when their cohort is not in school,” she said.

Health officials also warned data was showing an uptick of COVID-19 impacting youth.

“What we’ve been seeing in the public health side is that the positive cases that are coming before us through contact tracing are all in the younger age groups,” Mark Cooper, health director for the Westport-Weston Health District, said. “That’s really not the preschool ages, but 17 to the low 20s have been the majority of the cases we’ve seen in the last month or so.”

Cooper said there has also been an influx of people moving into the state that could affect the area’s COVID rates.

“What I’m also hearing on the state Department of Health level is that COVID-19 seems to be moving up the I-95 corridor and that’s somewhat of a concern,” he said.

BOE member Victor Escandon said the district and board will have to make decisions with imperfect information. Despite this, he said, the board needed to still look toward implementing a systematic approach.

“That being said, in the very short term, I do very much appreciate the learning curve that everybody had to go through,” he said. “I think there’s a bridge to get to that more systematic metric, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”