BOE Updates: End of Year Plans, NMS Timeline, Vaccines for Age 16+

During Thursday’s BOE meeting, after the board voted 6-1-1 to censure Peter Sherr for profane language at the February meeting, there were updates on end-of-year activities.

Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones said she had received numerous questions about graduations and moving-up ceremonies, but that it was too early to say.

“Our guidance comes from the CT Dept of Health, epidemiologists, the local Dept of Health and the Governor’s executive order,” she said. “We expect to see lots of changes between now and June. I am very optimistic that we can be outside and have gatherings that we couldn’t have at the end of last year.”

Jones said the Covid-19 vaccine was optional, noting that with the announcement from the Governor moving up the date of eligibility for people age 16+ was moved to April 1.

“It can be a controversial topic,” she said. “Each family has to decide how they feel about the vaccine for their own child.”

GEA president Carol Sutton said teachers had been getting vaccinated. But, she said, “Even with shots in the arm we’re growing concerned about cases in town rising in the 11-20 and 41-50 age groups as reported by the Greenwich Dept of Public Health.

Earlier this week, the Director of the Dept of Health said contact tracing pointed to sporting activities outside school among the age group 11-20, and attributed the cases among 41-50 to people returning from vacations.

Just prior to the meeting, the district emailed parents to say that after contact tracing, 50 students, 7 teachers and 2 service providers will quarantine for the required 14 days of exposure because of 4 cases among 10th graders in the GHS Greenwich Cohort who tested positive for Covid-19 due to an exposure in a non-school sporting activity. They were last on school grounds on Tuesday, March 23.

In addition, a ninth-grade student in the Cardinals Cohort, who was last on school grounds on Friday, March 19, tested positive due to an exposure from a sports event and will also quarantine for the required time. As a result of thorough contact tracing, it has been determined that no additional individuals are required to quarantine from this case.

There was much encouraging news, including that that the playgrounds at elementary schools had all reopened, and at GHS students have returned to the building on Wednesdays.

The remote elementary school, which was at one point 600 students, is now down to about 400 students.

“Kids are coming back which is a really positive sign,” Bernstein said during his debrief on Friday on WGCH.

The board voted unanimously on an interim appropriation of $8.1 million for North Mianus School Thursday night. The school had a ceiling collapse back on Feb 13. The interim appropriate will enable the district to issue an RFP for construction work. Some of the expense will be covered by insurance. Some emergency work has already been done at North Mianus School to remove water and unsafe ceilings.

The town engineer and building depart have been involved and it was determined that the impacts were not just to the second floor classrooms in the original part of the building, which was build in the 1920s, but also the first floor classrooms which will also need new ceilings.

“We do not anticipate that we will be ready for September, but we won’t have the official timeline until we actually get the design work done, but it’s a big project,” Jones said.

It may be necessary to place students at an alternative site next fall.

GHS student body president Mark Chen thanked the PTA for helping purchase additional outdoor seating including picnic tables and chairs.

“As the weather warms up, more students are outside during their opens and lunch block,” he said.

New picnic tables on the south end of campus. March 27, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
New picnic tables outside the main entrance to the GHS glass corridor. March 27, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

There was some optimism that Greenwich High School could have a live graduation ceremony in the stadium in June. The last day of school is tentatively set at June 22. (Only two snow days were used this year, though the initial days of school last fall were delayed.)

Meredith Blanchard, GHS senior class president, gave an update. “It seems we’ve gotten approval for some forms of prom and graduation, which is exciting for students, parents and faculty alike,” she said, adding that she was optimistic that traditional end-of-year events would be closer to normal than originally anticipated.

“Our prom will likely be over two days and at the school,” she said, adding that she was optimistic that graduation would include guests.

Dr. Jones referred to a “save the date” graduation, because the dates were subject to change.

“We don’t know what type of graduation it will be,” she said. “If the gathering size is by house it would take two full days to get through all of the houses. We have set aside June 21 and June 22 and will continue to refine that as the Governor changes executive orders and we watch what’s happening on Connecticut.”

Fresh markings at the GHS Cardinal Stadium site of new home bleachers. BOE member Joe Kelly said the bleachers would not likely be completed in time for graduation. March 27, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

Joe Kelly said that Cardinal Stadium was visited by the tree warden and a foundation was being dug for the bleachers. “It doesn’t look like we’ll make graduation for a complete project. Certainly there will be considerable progress made when graduation is there.”

“Labor Day is our projected completion date,” he added. “We hope plan a great opening at the first football game and rally the community given that Covid is behind us and everyone can come out. We’ll put on a big event the day of our first home football game when we can christen our new stadium and be proud of what we’ve got there.”

The dates of graduation are subject to change depending on what happens during the April BOE meeting.

See also:

Greenwich Board of Education Votes on Censure for Member’s Profanity Caught on Hot Mic

Greenwich Weekly Covid-19: Upticks among ages 11-20 and 41-50