Weston superintendent warns of possible shift to remote model

Weston Superintendent of Schools William McKersie. Taken April 6, 2016 in Greenwich, Conn.

Weston Superintendent of Schools William McKersie. Taken April 6, 2016 in Greenwich, Conn.

Bob Luckey Jr. / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — As COVID cases continue to rise across the state, school officials have cautioned parents there may be an imminent shift to an extended remote-learning model.

“No decisions have been made, but we all need to know the main points and timing of the decision,” Superintendent William Mckersie said in an email to parents last week. “Our aim is to continue with Hybrid as long as possible, always including voluntary distance learning, knowing that we will have short-term temporary remote phases for specific classes, grades or schools.”

He said the district has two options: stay hybrid as long as possible knowing they may have to be temporarily remote for short periods, or shift to extended temporary remote for several weeks, based on the status of community spread with check-ins on when a return to hybrid is viable.

“Regardless of these two options, immediate shifts may be required due to staffing and other challenges,” Mckersie said.

Mckersie said no one should question that educators deeply value and prefer in-person education, but the health and safety requirements of mitigating COVID-19 spread has made it difficult to provide continuous and consistent school schedules.

“Required quarantines of staff whenever there is confirmed exposure have increased to the point that it is not always possible to provide in-person teachers for each class,” he said. “Moreover, when we have administrators on quarantine, the safe operation of school buildings is a problem.”

He said at some point the best way to optimize teaching and learning may be a shift to an extended temporary remote learning model for several weeks, with a review of when the district could return to a hybrid model.

The decision to shift will be based on consultations and outreach with school and health officials, he said.

“Advance warning of a shift to extended temporary remote would help families and staff maximize a less than ideal situation, and we will strive to provide as much notice as possible,” Mckersie said. “Given that we cannot guarantee advanced warnings, everyone should be on alert that such a shift may be required.”

Weston’s infection rate is 39.7 cases per 100,000 population, according to the state Department of Public Health. Fairfield County also continues to see an increase of cases, reporting 49.3 last week, up from 34 the previous week.

Mckersie said the district has 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases — eight students and four staff members — and 204 in quarantine as of Nov. 27.

“Fortunately, from what we can determine, our positive cases have originated nearly entirely outside of the district,” Mckersie said. “Staff and students have been effective at preventing within school spread by adhering to the major mitigating strategies.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com