Milford schools

Milford Schools Head Says Year Begins Safe

MILFORD – Students have felt excited, anxious and hopeful on the first day of school since the first bell rang.

You can now add School Superintendent Anna Cutaia to this list.

“All the anxieties, all the worries were quickly put aside,” Cutaia said at a press conference Thursday to discuss the reopening of 14 schools to the district’s 5,500 students.

“I did car service here at Pumpkin Delight and the kids were jumping out of their cars,” she said. “They couldn’t wait to go back to school, I heard screams and oohs and aahs. If we could, there would have been a hugging festival.


Cutaia noted that six months have not been easy since schools were closed due to COVID-19 because “we miss our children; we miss our staff.

“To see them come together again, these (difficult) times have been swept away. It was a great meeting, “she said.” We are a school community and I have no doubts that we have adopted the right protocols to keep us safe. “

Milford had five elements in place on how to reopen: students’ decision to return in person (82%), number of staff returning for in-person teaching (99%), social decision-making and emotional about what is best for students and staff; and academic priorities.

“Coming back to school is the right thing as long as we can all be safe and we are doing everything we can to do it,” Cutaia said. “We know we are still in a pandemic crisis. It is always there and at any time it can happen anywhere. We will respond in the safest way possible. “

The school system took things on a case-by-case basis regarding teachers who wanted to withdraw from in-person teaching.

“We’ve had a few requests,” Cutaia said. “There are different types of leave that a teacher can take if he is not comfortable coming in and there was no distance learning opportunity for him depending on the needs of the district. We do not have full-time distance education teachers. All distance learning in progress is provided by teachers who are inside our schools. This can change if there is a positive case.

Milford Public Schools believe that a key to keeping COVID-19 at bay is having a cohort, which means keeping the same group of students together as much as possible throughout the day. The primary and middle school classes have 16 to 18 students, the high school (in a larger space) potentially 25 to 30 students.

All offices are socially six feet apart. Elementary schools will be in cohorts 100 percent of the time and colleges almost 100 percent. In high schools, first-year and second-year students will group together as much as possible. Due to the elective and specialized courses, a cohort for juniors and seniors is difficult.

Milford staff also believe the district is prepared to face the possibility of illness, officials said.

“To shut down one of our schools if anyone is infected, this decision is made with the Milford health department,” Cutaia said. “The way we respond will come from understanding the degree of that person’s contact with others. This will tell us whether we need to close a classroom, a wing of a building, or the whole school. This does not mean that we would close indefinitely. It would be up to the Department of Health to determine when we can return safely. “

For example, she said, “If it’s a junior who is sick, it would impact all of the adults and young people the junior has been in contact with.

“If that junior contacts 10 teachers that day and it is determined that those 10 teachers need to be quarantined, then the junior class could move on to all-online learning,” Cutaia said. “I don’t have 10 teachers in the building to replace those sent home. We write the playbook as we plan it.

Changes

Day 1 in 2020 was different from the past, from getting on and off buses to walking the hallways and having lunch. Buses have color-coded seats that passengers can take each day so they can be located in the event of illness. There are one-way and one-way signs in the hallways. Physical education and music teachers move with carts to the students.

Cutaia said of the lunch: “It’s not the time when we could all crowd into the cafeteria and there was noise and the kids talk more than they ate. We don’t have that scene anymore. There are no large gatherings, rather for elementary we deliver lunch on a cart. For middle and high school, students take a take-out lunch and bring it back to a classroom and eat under the supervision of a teacher.

There are new ways of teaching. In middle and high school, a teacher can teach two groups of students: one face to face in a group of 16 while the lesson is broadcast live to another classroom next door or in the hallway, with a another adult supervising these. students.

Cutaia praised the teachers for their creativity.

“The first few weeks are always about routine and protocols,” she said. “You know, the first day you see the youngest people lining up in the hallway. Well, I saw them learn to stand against the wall and then do “wall angels”. They found that if you touch someone by your side, you are too close.

This year, if a student is learning at home, they are broadcasting live to a classroom where a teacher is teaching. In many cases, these students are paired with in-person students to work together digitally.

Costly pandemic

Overtime, hiring more staff, purchasing PPE (personal protective equipment), additional cleaning supplies and offices all impact the budget.

“In elementary school, we had moved to a model where the students were sitting together at the same table,” Cutaia said. “Over the years, we have removed all the dilapidated student desks. We had some in reserve, but not enough. We therefore ordered 800 student desks because each child needs their own space.

Hallway signs and individual supplies for each student are additional expenses. Each student should also have their own supplies and materials.

“On Wednesday, when students have a full day of distance learning, all schools are thoroughly disinfected and disinfected,” Cutaia said. “The staff come to clean on weekends, and when the students leave our building, we disinfect and disinfect. We had to increase our pay line in this area.

“We had to bring in more teachers,” she noted. “When you take your average class size from almost 21 in elementary school and 23 in middle and high school and reduce it to 16, you now need to add more adults and roll them out to the young people in their cohorts. “

In the past, occasional teachers could be hired to work in more than one school as needed for $ 100 per day. With cohorts in place, teachers are hired to work in a single building.

Hiccups

“Due to social distancing, it takes a bit longer to get students into our buildings and back home in their cars and buses,” Cutaia said. Our ridership is down (55% to 60%) and more and more parents are abandoning their children. We thank the parents for their patience as the afternoon pickup takes a little longer.

[email protected]; Twitter: @ blox354


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