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Superintendent Ritchie's Communication November 13, 2020

November 13, 2020

Dear New London Public Schools Families, 

District Update:NLPS will be open to in-person student learningagain, in the Hybrid Model, starting on Monday November 16th in the following locations:

    • Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School 
    • Harbor Elementary School
    •  Jennings International Elementary Magnet School
    •  Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School
    •  New London High School Multi-Magnet Campus
    •  New London Adult Education 

Bennie Dover Jackson Multi-Magnet Middle School will not be able to have in-person student learning from Monday, November 16th through Friday, November 20th.  All middle school students will continue participating in full-time Distance Learning. 

A Shout of our Gratitude for our Staff:  Please click here to see a list of amazing feats our staff have continue to accomplish over the past month. Wow!  Just amazing!   

NLPS’ COVID-19 Updates: The middle school will be closed to student in-person learning next week.  This is due the impact on two classrooms earlier this month which results in staff and students needing to continue quarantine for a few more days. 

Click Here for a COVID-19 Power Point, outlining our district’s data over the past few weeks when the City of New London entered the “red” zone for their number of positive cases.  Steve Mansfield, from Ledge Light, shared good news last night that the New London community has made improvements and its positive numbers are heading downward.  Thank you to everyone who is assisting with making this trend happen!    

The numbers shared in the attached Power Point combine staff and students who tested positive. We must be careful not to identify individuals due to privacy laws, especially since our numbers are so low.  The (*) indicates the instances when the staff involved do not work directly with students and therefore there was no impact on student programming, or, when the students involved had been Distance Learners or had been absent during the time when the virus could spread. In situations where that occurred, the COVID-positive individual, and all surrounding close contacts, were guided to immediately quarantine.   

Ledge Light has been instrumental in helping us quickly identify and isolate these individuals, connected to any case, thus removing them from our buildings and others. In any situation where we do not feel confident that we have knowledge of all close contacts, we will continue to have to close a classroom, a grade level, or a building for a set time. The decision to close schools this past week was because we got a call last Thursday evening, identifying two families who all tested positive (7 positives in one phone call). These families had connections to NLPS in most schools, as well as in our Adult Education program.   

As a parent myself, I understand the constant stress families are under regarding not knowing what any given day will bring. I wish I had a simple solution. We, too, do not know positivity numbers until we get a phone call. 

All should continue to develop solid plans for each of the three models outlined in our district’s School Reopening Plan, published and shared in July. (Green-full in-person reopening, Yellow-Hybrid, Red-full time Distance Learning)  

As Steve Mansfield (from Ledge Light Health District) highlighted last night, our mitigation strategies in schools are working and data is showing our schools are safe places to be as they are structured, cleaned, and safety protocols for all continue to be in place. Our classroom sizes are small, with some classes being 1 teacher to 3 or 4 students and our reduced-size cohorts are also keeping students separated. Schools are filled to less than 50% capacity on any day. (Please refer to school population chart in Power Point.) With that said, it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to keep everyone safe and healthy. No one should come to work or school if they are not feeling well.

Parents continue to have a choice in whether they wish to send their child to school for in-person learning in the Hybrid Model. Approximately 40% of our school population has chosen to participate in full-time Distance Learning and teachers and support staff are doing an excellent job providing educations to students in both the Hybrid and the Distance Learning Models.  Thank you to our amazing staff!

The Board will discuss next steps regarding future instructional models, after Thanksgiving breakat the next Board meeting. Rules regarding existing travel bans, as well as predicted substitute shortages, are concerns for us. If students or staff travel out of state, they will need adher to the CT Travel Advisory Requirements. Additionally, we, like all other school districts, are managing specific cases in our schools, as well as individual family situations of our staff. (For example, if someone’s spouse becomes positive, our employee also needs to stay home.) We are surveying staff this week, regarding travel plans, to help capture our adult data to assist with planning ahead. 

A lot of effort goes into everyday planning of coverage and support for all. This work is non-stop, day and evening, 7 days a week.  Providing excellent educational opportunities, with choice, to our children and families continues to be our goal…if our district’s data, and guidance from health professionals, supports that this can be done safely.   

Message from CSDE Commissioner Cardona:  Also attached is a copy of a letter sent out to all Superintendents from Commissioner Miguel Cardona on Tuesday.

Mental Health Supports:  Children are amazingly resilient and can continue through the most challenging times! These times have brought forth additional stressors and challenges. We continue to thank you for your support in assisting with their classes and social emotional learning, but please know there are additional mental health and social supports available in all buildings if you or your child is struggling. School based teams of psychologists, social workers, school counselors, and wellness staff are available to problem solve, counsel, and connect you with community agencies to help with a variety of needs.  Please continue to reach out to district and school support staff listed here 

COVID-DataAs a reminder, all our district’s data is reported to the state and DPH weekly.  It is also reviewed regularly with our health advisor and with health leaders at Ledge Light Health District.  We are grateful for their guidance and partnership as we analyze each situation carefully and respond to it.  The link below highlights this information.  This live data base is updated weekly. 

COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols:  Please continue to always wear a mask, socially distance from others, frequently wash your hands and cover all coughs and sneezes.  If a student or staff member is not feeling well, we ask that you do not come to school and, instead, seek guidance from a medical provider.  We have School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) that are part of our district.  If you need medical advice, please do not hesitate to call one our SBHCs at (860) 437-4555.  Please continue to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing as well.  Sites are found throughout the New London community. 

Self and Family Care: Please take time to have fun, unwind, enjoy the outdoors, etc. this weekend. Thank you for continuing to support our collective efforts during these challenging times.   

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Superintendent Ritchie