Fairfield schools hiring staff, adding plans for remote learning

Macy Schulman, left, and Mason Yeoh, both students at Fairfield Warde High School, carry pro-remote learning signs during a rally of parents and students fighting to have an online option for school this year, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Fairfield, Conn.

Macy Schulman, left, and Mason Yeoh, both students at Fairfield Warde High School, carry pro-remote learning signs during a rally of parents and students fighting to have an online option for school this year, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Fairfield, Conn.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Superintendent of Schools Mike Cummings said the district is hiring support staff and putting plans in place for remote learning options this school year.

The conversation around remote learning has intensified throughout Fairfield over the past few weeks. Parents and students have spoken out, demanding an answer on what the school district plans to do for the students who are not able to return to the classroom because they have compromised immune systems or live with someone who does.

“We are working on solutions that would provide ongoing support to students in both situations — in the short-term absence and in the long term,” Cummings said. “That may look slightly different by level.”

A short-term absence would apply to students who have to quarantine and a long-term absence is for students with medical issues or have family members with medical issues that prevent them from returning to school, Cummings said.

Recently, the medical issues argument sparked a rally in support of remote learning. The event’s organizers cited family medical issues as a reason they or their children could not return to school.

While district officials have been adamant about returning all students back to school full-time, administration is recognizing it’s not a possibility for every student or family.

As part of the plan for the short-term absence, the district is planning to provide students with work related to their grade’s curriculum and additional structural support. Participation would be part of the virtual support and graded based on the completion of the work and the student’s engagement, Cummings said.

He said they’re hiring long-term substitutes who would virtually help these students.

“Essentially, the way we’re looking at this is the student will be able to get learning support from teachers related to the work that was assigned to them from school,” he said. “There’s an assumption here that students are able to do the work.”

Cummings said students who are quarantining who are positive and asymptomatic could be able to do the assignments, while students who are sick might not be able to do them.

The middle and high schools are looking at a few different situations that would have students use Google teacher classrooms and access instructions, as well as additional direct support from the teachers — all of which are delivered virtually.

“I want to be clear, what we’re not talking about at this point is a livestreaming scenario,” Cummings said. “We’re talking about either prep lessons in advance or recorded lessons after the fact to support the students, as well as the ability to interface with teachers for questions. Again, the participation is doing the work.”

The district is looking at how it can support the students considered long-term absences.

Cummings said it’s going to involve different solutions for different students depending on the types of services they may be entitled to. This could include a way of providing homebound tutoring. The district may also look at the idea of supporting these students with current staff on a stipend basis to provide additional support.

“We are also looking to provide some type of counseling support given the isolation that they are going to be in,” Cummings said.