Fairfield schools unveil first draft of reopening plans

FAIRFIELD — Masks, hand sanitizing, social distancing and health screening will be the new norm in Fairfield public schools.

The Fairfield public school system unveiled the first draft of reopening plans late last week. According to Superintendent Mike Cummings, the plans will be revised frequently over the coming weeks as the first day of school approaches.

He said the plan will be adapted by the changing nature of health data in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as by the questions, concerns and ideas generated by the initial draft.

The plans come more than six months after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States. In Connecticut, 48,776 people have tested positive for the respiratory illness and 4,413 people have died after contracting it as of July 24.

The strategies the plans outline for reducing the risk of spreading coronavirus include social distancing, wearing masks or face coverings, establishing smaller, contained learning groups to limit the number of individuals students interact with, frequent cleaning and continual monitoring of student, staff and community health.

The first priority the plans set forth, out of a list of four, was the safety of students returning to in-person school.

“Our schools will be prepared to reinforce healthy practices among our staff and students, take preventative actions to prevent the spread of all respiratory illnesses and prepare for any potential cases or increased transmission of COVID-19,” the plans said.

The plans laid out four priorities for reopening starting with the safety of students and staff. Next was flexible instructional schedules based on current virus transmission levels, with the understanding that the model used may change as more information becomes available.

The emotional and social well-being of students family and staff was also listed as a priority, with a focus on accounting for traumatic experiences people may have had during the pandemic. There is a growing body of research, the plan said, showing that social and emotional learning is fundamental to academic success.

The final priority was to have all students achieve at the expected grade level by the end of the school year in 2021.

The plans also stipulate that students must stay home if they are feeling sick, have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. Parents must check their children's health every morning before sending them to school, and have to ensure their child’s temperature is below 100 degrees.

Masks will be required,with two breaks provided before and after lunch. Parents will be responsible for providing masks, but the school will have disposable ones on-hand if a student forgets one.

“Ultimately, our commitment to our students is that the Fairfield Public Schools are an improved school system and that we carry into the ’20‐21 school year our commitment to provide your child with the best education, no matter the circumstances in which that education is delivered,” Cummings said.