Greenwich Teachers to Return to Buildings Monday; CIAC to Evaluate Sports One Week at a Time

Greenwich Public School teachers attended professional development remotely on Thursday and Friday rather than in their buildings as originally planned.

The change was announced by Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones after the teachers union, the Greenwich Education Association, expressed questions and concerns.

Jones emailed teachers to say the two remote days would provide time for facilities and administrative staff to do another sweep of the district’s buildings.

After the two days of remote professional development teachers will head to their classrooms on Monday for the last of three days of professional development.

Jones said the Greenwich Schools summer team worked tirelessly to prepare for teachers to return in a safe manner.

“Our facilities staff have moved furniture all across the district, security staff striped floors, and a host of other work which is beyond our norm,” she said. “Every building in GPS is unique, and every building has needed attention in a different way.”

In response to teachers’ concerns about air quality, Jones explained that the newest buildings with automated HVAC have fresh air return built into the system.

“While each building is different, the buildings are conducting a full flush (approximately 2 hours before school) and 1 hour after school.  We have set our buildings to bring in more air flow,” she said, adding that at Greenwich High School, the district’s largest building, a new $1,052,000 a new cooling tower project was completed last month.

“For those buildings with window units, the fresh air is pulled through the window unit and hits the chiller in the unit and passes through a filter,” she wrote, adding, “While our buildings do not have MERV 16 filters as would be found in a surgical ward, most of the units around the district are MERV 8-9.”

Jones said the CT Department of Health advised against free standing fans in classrooms because they actually blow any particles around the room and can decrease the air quality.

She explained that box fans, filtered light and an array of other products were considered but ultimately were not recommended for the same reason.

“If there are any particles in the room, we want those particles to fall and hit the ground, not stay active in your classrooms,” she added.

Jones asked teachers to treat each other with respect and model the district Norms when they return on Monday.

Meanwhile, in the world of high school sports, on Thursday the CIAC’s Glenn Lungarini announced that fall interscholastic sports will proceed, despite recommendations from the State Dept of Public Health, though he said the plan remains fluid.

“What we’re doing is having our kids to get back on campus under low risk activities, and then take a deliberate look at Covid metrics and decide whether it’s appropriate to move to moderate risk activities, and then high risk activities.”

Glenn Lungarini

“We see our plan as trying to align as much as possible with DPH recommendations, understanding there are a couple areas we continue to discuss and seek information and clarification on. But as we enter into fall sports starting on Saturday, we go in with every sport experience being low risk. It’s a 60 minute workout that begins with 30 minutes of non contact, sports specific skill work.”

The CIAC plan is to continue low risk conditioning and workouts until the end of September (Sept 20 at the earliest), which represents roughly two weeks beyond the beginning of school, which is after Labor Day, in order to have a check for Covid data.

“As we evaluate on a weekly basis. There could be decisions each week that either the metrics support moving forward to the next level of play, whether that’s full team or increase to moderate risk activity,” Lungarini said.

CIAC is listening to the recommendations of the DPH and aligning “in many ways” with their recommendations.

On Thursday Dr. Diedre Gifford spoke for the State Dept of Health to reiterate that their stance had not changed on football or volleyball.

“We do not recommend going ahead with either high risk sports, such as football, or moderate risk indoor sports, such as girls volleyball. Those recommendations are unlikely to change,” Gifford said. “We’re go to follow the science, and the science indicates that these sports are higher risk than others.”

Lungarini nevertheless said, “We still have questions and areas we feel need to be explored as we go forward. We’re trying to provide our districts and superintendents with as much direction as possible for them to know what is in the best interest of their particular kids.”

He said with football and volleyball, players will begin with low risk conditioning as conversations with Dept of Public Health continue.

“We’d like to understand – if the metrics when we get back to school continue to be in a positive place as they are now can we make the decision at that time to play 11-11 football, which is what we’d like our kids to have the experience to participate in,” he aded.

He said, unlike other sports, the 11-11 high school football allows players to “be seen” during the college recruiting process.

“If we can give the kids that opportunity for that experience, more than any other sport, this may be the only opportunity we have,” he said, adding that fall may be the only opportunity.

“As we move into the winter and the spring, it is anticipated that there will be an uptick in Covid metrics. …The numbers throughout winter and into spring will never be as good as they are right now,” he continued. “Now might be the only opportunity to provide the kids this experience.”

He said the structured athletic activity is also also beneficial for athletes’ social-emotional health.

Lungarini said graduations regulated by schools had provided a safe experience, and that training since July 6 had also been very safe. He noted that small upticks after graduations were traced to private parties.

Similarly, he said that when activities were paused during the past few weeks, athletes had simply gathered on their own to play.

“I can’t tell you the number of pictures and videos that were sent to me,” he recalled. “Last Sunday I got a text with a picture of about 20 kids out on a field playing football with each other. Our point is, if our coaches are with our kids, motivating them and encouraging them – we have an opportunity to play together. But to do that, you have to commit to the school, your family, and the team, and forego those social experiences where you’re getting together in unstructured environments.”

“We believe our kids, our athletes and our schools deserve the value of time and the opportunity to at least begin under low risk activities, and then assess as we move forward,” he concluded. “We think it’s safe. We think it’s logical. We think it gives a progression. We think it addresses the social-emotional, mental health of our kids as well as their desire to compete…As we move to the winter, at least preserve the opportunity to see where the metrics are at that time, and whether it is appropriate to play.”