Bernstein, Stowe: Taking a Flexible Approach to Reopening Greenwich Schools

Written by Board of Education Chair Peter Bernstein and Vice Chair Kathleen Stowe

We recognize that the reopening of the Greenwich Public Schools is at the forefront of families’ thoughts at this time, as is the case around the country. Given that, we wanted to update the community.

This past week, the Superintendent presented the Board of Education with the initial findings and plans for the Return to School. This plan will be submitted to the state and will provide a framework for the Greenwich Public Schools to reopen.

This plan is based upon mandated requirements set out by the state and informed by current guidance from local, state and federal health agencies as well as experiences around the United States and globally, but most importantly it has been guided by extensive input from the community.

There are many unknowns and we have to be prepared for further developments in the COVID outbreak but the overarching goal is to get our students back to school as soon as they can do so in a safe manner and to maintain the highest quality educational experience in any format required.

Just a few things to note about the draft plan as presented by the Superintendent to the Board of Education last week:

  • The plan was developed collaboratively by a Return to School Planning Team led by the Superintendent along with education and health professionals, who held seven public meetings – in addition to the two Board of Education meetings held last week along with numerous subcommittee meetings;
  • The goals of the plan are to maintain health and safety guidelines; provide high quality educational programming to all students whether in school or via remote learning; enhance a focus on social emotional learning; and analyze achievement data in order to address any gaps from the spring closure;
  • The plan was based on feedback from parents and teachers including surveys, focus groups and submitted comments – in fact, there were over 6,000 responses (out of a possible 7000) from parents to a survey and 78% of parents had some level of comfort with their children returning to school full time with social distancing to the best of our ability;
  • Parents who are not comfortable with their students returning to school will have the option to engage in a 100% remote learning environment that will include a set schedule and a 50/50 balance between live and asynchronous (pre-recorded) lessons presented to students daily;
  • The administration has studied the lessons learned from distance learning in the spring and is implementing meaningful enhancements that are already being applied in the summer school programs;
  • Teachers and staff are receiving additional training for remote learning as well as additional equipment, including cameras, microphones and laptops to improve the experience;
  • Even if we return to school in person, it is likely that remote learning will need to be implemented quickly should individual cases arise or if there is an increase in community cases; and
  • There will be opportunities for continual feedback from the community, students and staff to refine practices as we evolve.

We encourage you to review the materials posted on the district website from the Return to School Planning team as well as from the Board of Education meetings. You can also watch videos of all of those meetings and submit feedback to the administration and the Board. This has and will continue to be an open and collaborative process. The Superintendent has been providing regular updates and will be hosting town hall meetings with both parents and teachers in the coming weeks.

Please remember, the plan will continue to evolve as we monitor the situation around us. Our Board will remain engaged in the process as we work to keep our students and staff safe and ensure that our students continue to receive the top quality education we all expect.