Milford schools

Milford’s new schools to reopen in September with hybrid plan


NEW MILFORD – Schools will reopen later and under the hybrid model this school year, said Acting Superintendent Paul Smotas.

Students will now return to school on September 8 and teachers will return on August 28, offering teachers a week of training and professional development before classes start. This means that the last day of school should now be June 18th.

The rest of the statutory holidays and the dates of the parent-teacher conference remain the same on the calendar.

The school board unanimously approved the decision last week, although many acknowledged it causes hardship for families when students are not physically in school.

“I’m glad we’re starting slowly,” said school board member Tammy McInerney.

Smotas said the hybrid plan best addresses concerns raised by parents and the community, and allows the school to open safely for students and staff.

School officials had previously asked the state if the high school could open using the hybrid model and the other schools using full face-to-face classes. They continually said the hybrid would be the perfect model for everyone if the state allowed it, as it provided in-person instruction while also making it easier to maintain distances in classrooms and on buses.

In the hybrid model, half of the student body will attend school in person on Monday and Tuesday, everyone will learn remotely on Wednesday, and the other half of the students will attend on Thursday and Friday.

Smotas said the details of that plan and what happens on Wednesday may change as trustees, trustees and union leaders review and revise it over the next two weeks. He also meets with a number of stakeholders – including the mayor and the police chief – to review the traffic precautions to be taken.

“I guess a lot more parents will be driving their kids to school than ever before,” he said.

Some of the outstanding elements of the plan are how activities such as music will be managed and the health metrics that will be used to determine when to transition to fully distance learning or fully in person.

Officials are also determining which students might need to be in school more than two days a week, such as ESL students or those with high needs.

“I am confident that, given the next four weeks, we will be able to refine, revise and bring this plan to fruition for the school to open on September 8,” Smotas said.

Smotas plans to have virtual meetings on Zoom the week of August 24, if not earlier, focusing on different areas of the plan, such as food service, special education, facilities, training, transportation, activities, staffing needs and nursing care. People will also be able to ask questions during these sessions.

Some school board members said they appreciated the work Smotas and others were putting into the plan, but worried that August 24 would not give parents enough time to make decisions on what to do to the education of their children.

Smotas said he would organize the meetings earlier if he could, but would like to see how other districts are handling their reopenings.

Starting after Labor Day, New Milford has more time and information, he said, adding that about 90% of the superintendents he spoke with also do hybrid first.

“I’m not rushing,” he said. “It is the most important decision I have ever made in my life as a superintendent and I have been in this state for a long, long time.”

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