Greenwich Schools announced Tuesday that all of its schools will pivot to full remote learning for the week of January 4-8, following the holiday break.
The idea is to allow time for families and staff members to get tested for Covid-19 before returning to school buildings.
In a letter families, Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones said the decision was made after consulting with Greenwich Health Dept and school district health officials.
“This will provide a full 14 days for families and staff to quarantine and get tested following the holiday weekend,” Dr. Jones said in the letter, adding that they anticipated many families traveling during the holidays.
Jones also said the temporary pivot to remote learning would assist with child care issues for school staff and to help them feel safe about their return to school buildings after the holiday break.
She noted that other school districts in Fairfield County had also made this change. Child care leave is covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
She noted many staff had been concerned about the amount of anticipated travel.
In the last BOE meeting teacher union president Carol Sutton gave voice to teacher concerns about social distancing in the buildings, calling it “a comforting lie.”
She had previously told the board that teachers, despite following district safety protocols, felt unsafe in their schools regardless of the mantra that schools are the safest place to be.
In-person learning is scheduled to resume Jan. 11.
“While Greenwich Schools is making this adjustment, it is important to note that the trend in our community saw a slight spike after Thanksgiving which impacted the number of quarantines and positive cases in our GPS families,” Jones wrote. “The concerns about travel are high, and we are asking all of our families and staff to encourage our students to wear a mask if they have play dates, sledding opportunities, or engage in any type of social activity outside of school during the break. Wearing a mask does make a difference.”
Jones said the district is working to offer an emergency site for those families who would be greatly impacted by the pivot to remote during the week of January 4-8. The site would provide a safe space for students to log on remotely with their teachers.
Families who anticipate facing hardship were asked to fill out and submit a form, which was offered in both English and Spanish.
At last week’s BOE meeting, Dr. Jones said the district was about to start Antigen testing after applying at the state level. Antigen tests yield results in 15 minutes.
“Now if a teacher has the sniffles, and they’re not really sure, and they want to be tested, they would be able to do that,” Jones said.
“I think it will make students and staff feel safer,” Jones said. “But you do have to be symptomatic, by state regulation, for nurses to use those – it has to be something from the (daily symptoms self checklist), like the sniffles.”