Coronavirus Update: Greenwich Schools Plan for Possible Extended Closure

Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones sent an email to families on Sunday outlining the district’s preparedness for Coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, Governor Ned Lamont announced the first Connecticut resident had contracted the disease. The person is a resident of Wilton who had recently traveled to California.

On Friday, just over the state line in Port Chester, NY, the JFK School dismissed students at 10:45am because a school family member may have been in close proximity to someone with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We understand the level of concern given the proximity of where positive cases of the virus occurred this past weekend,” Dr. Jones said in her email, adding, “Our local Greenwich health authorities are the guiding beacon if the Governor has not declared a State of Emergency for Connecticut.”

Jones said as of Monday, March 9, all Greenwich Schools out-of-state field trips are suspended until further notice.

She said three different school groups had planned to travel to New York City the week of March 16-20, but given the New York State of Emergency, it would be unwise to continue those trips.

As for school trips planned for late April and May, Jones said there is optimism that the level of concern will have waned by then, and that health officials expect warmer spring weather will slow the spread of the virus.

As for the possibility of school closures, the Superintendent said the district would be governed by a State of Emergency if declared by Governor Lamont.

Also, the possibility of remote learning is being explored.

“An extended closure would warrant a different approach to learning, and out of an abundance of caution…Alternate learning pathways would be provided for home, and in the event of an extended event, food service for those children on free and reduced meals would also be provided.” – Dr. Toni Jones, Greenwich Schools Superintendent

If an individual school experiences a challenging situation, Jones said the district might close that school for a deeper cleaning for a period of time, just as the district does during flu season. That decision would be made by working closely with the Department of Health.

After-school facility use will be reduced starting Monday, March 9 to provide time for the custodial staff to deep clean without interruption.

Currently there are no adjustments from the State on athletic events, but the Superintendent cautioned that that could change at any time.

For children with compromised immune systems, parents are asked to work with school principals and/or nurses for accommodations.

“Absences in this instance are excused and the school will work with families to provide as much learning as possible to keep the student on pace with his or her classmates,” Jones said.

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Jones noted that staff do not determine a COVID-19 diagnosis. Those tasks are the responsibility of state and local health departments, which have liaisons who will work with school districts as cases arise.

Parents were asked to encourage their children to carry their devices home every day from school and to alert their principal, teacher or school counselor if they do not have internet at home. The district has an existing program to provide internet hot spots free of charge for homes without access.

Jones said Schools Facilities staff are conducing nightly deep cleaning using strong, yet safe disinfectants on “all high touch points.”

“We have extended hours in the evening when the building is empty to make sure that the building is thoroughly deep cleaned every night, following protocol which is often utilized during flu season to minimize the spread of germs.” – Dr. Toni Jones, Greenwich Schools Superintendent

Jones said it is important to follow state standards for approved cleaners rather than staff using products from home that are not approved, as they can cause allergic reactions to students and staff.

“This is an unsettling time given the access to social media, news stories, and constant barrage of information which can be frightening, especially for children and young people. Thank you for supporting our staff as they work to keep a sense of normalcy and calm for our students,” Jones concluded.

See also:

Wilton Resident is First “Presumptive Positive” Case of COVID-19 in Connecticut March 8, 2020

Port Chester School Closes Early, Citing Concerns over Coronavirus March 6, 2020

Greenwich First Selectman Camillo Urges Residents to Follow CDC Protocols for Coronavirus March 4, 2020