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Superintendent Ritchie's Communication 2-10-21

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February 10, 2021

Dear Members of the New London School Community,

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and warm. Thank you for your continued flexibility and partnership as we navigate not only COVID-19, but also New England’s unpredictable weather! Today, I would like to update you on a few district topics.

Inclement Weather:
Our inclement weather plan for this school year consists of three “traditional” snow days whereby students in both the Hybrid Learning model and the Distance Learning model have will have no school. Yesterday marked the second of our three possible snow days.  Both school days will be made up in June. Moving forward, we can have one more additional “snow” day whereby the school has to be closed due to unsafe weather conditions. After that, we will be moving forward with having all students participate in full-time Distance Learning programming, should winter weather continue to interrupt our ability to be on site. I will keep all posted through social media and School Messenger calls and emails as winter weather presents itself. Thank you!

Instructional Models
Our district has continued to offer 2 differentiated instructional models: a Hybrid Model as well as a full-time Distance Learning Model.  Currently 61% of our elementary population is choosing the Hybrid Model and 39% of the population is choosing full-time Distance Learning.  At the secondary level, 56% of students are choosing to attend in the Hybrid Model and 44% percent are choosing to participate in full-time Distance Learning. 

We continue to monitor daily, weekly, and bi-weekly COVID-19 data trends working in conjunction with our medical advisors.  Our in-school COVID-19 data for the school year tells us that our Hybrid Model has been working.  Data from our facilities are also continually reviewed.  I commend our custodians and various staff for ensuring buildings are cleaned.  I am additionally pleased that our air filters are inspected, and air quality is monitored regularly.  Our facilities are also looked at regarding occupancy.  The two paths chosen by our students and families have resulted in extremely low building usage. Building enrollments, on average, are less than 30%. With that said, we are going to begin to invite more Hybrid Model students back to a dual-cohort, 4-day per week in-person schooling model.  This new opportunity is coined Dual Cohort AB. It is not mandated but is another option for Hybrid parents to consider. Those hybrid students, who choose to apply to move from the 2-day a week Cohort A or B Hybrid model to the Dual Cohort AB model, would be expected to attend school four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Wednesdays will continue to be a fully remote instructional day for all students at this time.

Through our calculations, our class sizes for both elementary and secondary levels should continue to remain below regular size through mid-March. Our facility usage should also remain below 50% of its capacity.  We will continue to evaluate our COVID-19 data, facility usage, and student learning engagement numbers to make additional, small-scale changes as we continue through the month of March.  Teachers will continue to make recommendations for Hybrid Model students to be invited into a Cohort AB instructional model. If your child currently attends Cohort A or Cohort B and you are interested in having your child considered for the four-day Cohort AB model, please speak with your child’s classrooms teacher and/or complete the following form by clicking here.  Please contact Kate McCoy at mccoyk@newlondon.org if you have any questions.

Instructional Models the weeks of 2/15/21 – 3/19/21:

The following chart outlines a visual of our Instructional Models for the next few weeks.  We will continuously reevaluate and respond to our data.  As a reminder, if we do have new positive COVID-19 cases in the school, action will be taken.  This includes the possibility of closing a classroom, a grade level, or a school building for a temporary time.  We thank all for their continued flexibility. 

 

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Week of February 8th -12th

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

 

Snow Day

NO SCHOOL

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

**HALF DAY FOR STUDENTS/Staff Professional Development

Week of February 15th-19th

President’s Holiday-

NO SCHOOL

President’s Holiday-

NO SCHOOL

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

Week of February 22nd-26th

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

Week of March

1st-March 5th

*Cohort A*

Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

Week of March

8th-12th

*Cohort A*

Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

Professional Development Day

NO SCHOOL

Week of March

15th-19th

*Cohort A*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort A

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Full-Time Distance Learning for all

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

*Cohort B

*Cohort AB Model

*Distance Learning

Enrichment Clubs:
We are excited to offer families before school enrichment at Winthrop, Jennings, and Harbor. The program operates from 8-9am with a variety of offerings such as STEM, Literacy, Fitness, ARTS, SEL and more. This before school enrichment is offered to our distance learners and cohorts. Nathan Hale is currently in the developing stages of their programming and more information will be advertised soon. Our after-school programs at the Middle School and High School still have available spots. We offer over 15 clubs in each building. If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please reach out to Angela Rasmussen at rasmussena@newlondon.org.

Athletics:
The winter athletic program at New London Public Schools started with boys’ and girls’ basketball practices at the high school on January 25, 2021. Middle school girls’ and boys’ basketball and high school fencing followed with their first practices on Thursday,

February 4, 2021. High school indoor track is slated to begin on Monday, February 8, 2021.  All athletes’ physical well-being is monitored by daily temperature checks and health screenings. Protocols for practices and games include social distancing, the wearing of a mask, constant sanitizing of equipment, and modified game play. All teams are playing an abbreviated schedule in a “bubble” that includes only opponents from southeastern Connecticut. We will be offering free video-streaming of contests via the district website for both our families and those of visiting teams.  Please contact Phil Orbe (orbep@newlondon.org) if you have any questions about our district’s athletic programs.

Superintendent's Advisory Groups: “Dreaming Big” on Behalf of Our Students:
Have you been “dreaming big” about what the future of education might be able to look like?  Have you reflected on what has worked well for your child and for you?  Can you identify situations in which you have seen your child’s learning thrive?  Can you identify what has exhausted or frustrated your child’s learning?  Have you new ideas and solutions to share as we move forward?  I am a proponent of embracing change.  Several new possibilities are available for our students as we forge ahead into the summer and next school year.  I have been “dreaming big” about a variety of innovative ideas for the field of education for a long time now and look forward to piloting some as we move into SY 2021-2022.  Currently, I am enjoying meeting with staff and students, at each building, for “Dreaming Big” advisory meetings.  I also look forward to doing the same with parents/caregivers.  Everyone’s ideas and input matter greatly.  I will be present at your school’s next parent meeting/coffee hour to listen to the thoughts of parents regarding their hopes and dreams for the next school year. I look forward to engaging in an exciting conversation with you soon! Below are the upcoming parent meetings at each school:

  • BDJMMS: 3/10 – 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Jennings: 2/22 - 3:30 p.m.
  • NLHSMMC: 2/23 – 3:00 p.m.
  • Harbor: 3/11 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Winthrop: 2/18 – 6:00 p.m.
  • Nathan Hale: 3/9 – 6:00 p.m.

Courageous Conversations About Race:
The district continues deepening its equity work through our staff discussions using Courageous Conversations about Race each month.  This month the focus is on a shared understanding of Equity Terms that impact our teaching and learning environments.  Additionally, voluntary book studies for staff and parents are also underway. To make the reading more accessible we are embarking on a read-aloud of the text to share with staff and families. If you are interested in participating in the recording please reach out to Kate McCoy. Our staff members completing the practitioner training began their nine-month journey this month and are excited to be part of the CCAR Spring 21 Cohort.  

Budget Update:
Our budget development timeline has shifted slightly.  Below are the new dates for our formal budget development and presentation process.

  • March 3: Board of Education Special Meeting: Workshop 1.
  • March 3: Budget Inquiry Form to launch on website.
  • March 4: Board of Education Special Meeting: Workshop 2.
  • March 10: Public Hearing on the Budget and tentative Board of Education Special Meeting for continued budget discussions (if needed).
  • March 10: Budget Inquiry Form to close on website.
  • March 11: Board of Education Business Meeting – Action Item for Budget Approval.
  • March 15: Transmission of Final budget to the Mayor of the City of New London.

A Focus on Mental Health: Parent Engagement/Involvement Meeting Date
Our next parent engagement event is on Monday February 22nd at 5:00. Please join us for a virtual presentation from Dr. Carol Labor from Minding Your Mind as she discusses resilience and teen mental health during COVID-19. For more information and to register, please click here.

COVID-19 Data:
The week of January 31st – February 6th, there were fourteen (14) COVID-positive cases, of combined students and staff, reported to the district. Seven of the fourteen positive cases were full-time Distance Learning students.  Additionally, six of this week’s reported cases were confirmed positives for the previous week that we were fully virtual, however the district was not notified by these individuals until this past week.  All are reminded to notify the district immediately by calling 860-701-5813 when you or your child are notified of a positive test result.  The district did not return to in-person learning until February 4, 2021, thus all cases were the result of community (not work-related) contact.  Those impacted have been advised to isolate or quarantine.  All are reminded to stay vigilant, implementing all COVID-19 safety protocols whether in school, home, or out in communities.  The link to the CT COVID Data Portal for all CT schools can be viewed here.

To continue slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is essential that all continue to stay vigilant with COVID-19 safety protocols and mitigation strategies.  To lower your risk of exposure, please continue to wear a mask 100% of the time when you are out in public and please continuously wash your hands and wipe down frequently used work and living spaces to keep them germ- free.  These mitigation strategies have proven to be successful within our schools as we have had minimal in-school transmission by taking these measures.

 

Holiday-Monday and Tuesday:
Please remember that New London Public Schools is closed on Monday, February 15th and Tuesday, February 16th due to the President’s holiday. Please do not hesitate to reach out for any reason at any time.  We are here to support each other.  Thank you for your continued partnership!

 

Sincerely,
Superintendent Ritchie