Letter to the editor from Board of Education members Peter D. Bernstein (Chair) and Kathleen Stowe (Vice Chair)
Labor Day weekend certainly feels different this year. Normally we would be celebrating the end of summer with a few days of school already under our belts. This year our children got to stretch their summer out a little longer but are coming back with heightened anticipation for the new school year. This has been an unusual summer in so many ways, and our school planning has never been more challenging.
Before our students return, we want to thank the community, the teachers, the students, the administration and the parents for providing feedback, offering help and just being supportive. This has not been an easy summer, and we may expect continued challenges as we move ahead. As our Vision of the Graduate states, we want our students to “Respond to failures and successes with reflection and resilience.” That may in fact be the theme for all of us this year.
As parents ourselves, we can say that our kids have never been so excited to get back to school. For all of us who feel the weight of six months of quarantine, imagine if that is 5% of your entire lifetime.
For those 82.5% of our students whose families have elected for then to return to school in person, the key thing is to welcome them back to school in as normal an environment with health and safety as priority number one. This will be the first time in six months for them to see many friends and teachers and to get back to the face-to-face instruction that so many appreciate. Our students will see some differences but hopefully much that is familiar.
● Grades pre-K through 8 will be in the building five days a week.
● Greenwich High School is hybrid with half the students in the building Monday and Tuesday and the other half Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is an all remote day for the entire high school while the building goes through an additional deep cleaning between teams.
● Students are assigned to a cohort and will have limited to no interaction during the school day outside of their assigned group.
● Buildings have new defined pathways and enhanced cleaning protocols and our classrooms have been reimagined for social distancing.
● Everyone will be wearing a mask (except with a medical exemption).
● We have reduced the number of children on buses as more families have volunteered to drive their children. Masks will also be worn on the bus.
For the 17.5% of our students whose families prefer to stay remote, they will receive their direct instruction from certified Greenwich Public School teachers. The key mission for those teachers is to make connections with those students and ensure that lessons are interactive as they cover the curriculum. Based on parental feedback from the spring, there is more structure to the day and breaks built into the schedule, so a student is not in front of a screen for the entire day.
Our new normal is not normal, but six months into a worldwide pandemic we must do what we can to keep out students safe and provide them with a positive experience. Greenwich Public Schools is serving the community by providing options to encompass the range of experiences at this time. We have in-person schooling for those who want it and remote learning for those who don’t or can’t as well as an ability to toggle between these scenarios as the health situation requires. During this time, the one thing we can all agree on is that we need to remain agile and positive. Our students need the opportunity to learn and the chance to interact with one another for their social and emotional development.
These are critical times for all of our students and their development, and we take our jobs and our service to the community more seriously than ever before. Again, we thank the parents and community for your cooperation, your assistance and your support to date and please continue to provide feedback. We will continue to communicate at every pass, remain transparent with the community and keep guiding GPS to deliver the best for our children. And for all the students, enjoy the long holiday weekend, pack a lunch and a mask and we look forward to welcoming you back to school!
Board of Education members Peter D. Bernstein (Chair) and Kathleen Stowe (Vice Chair)