Seymour begins transition to full in-person learning

Photo of Cayla Bamberger

SEYMOUR — Seymour Public Schools is forging ahead with increased in-person instruction for its youngest learners.

Kindergarten- through second-grade students returned to classrooms for full-time instruction last week. The district plans to welcome back third- through sixth-grade students on March 8, seventh-grade students on March 15 and eighth-grade students on March 22.

The students can choose to learn in person or remotely five days a week.

“We have been constantly monitoring our internal health metrics as well as our town health metrics,” Superintendent Michael Wilson and Associate Superintendent Vonda Tencza wrote in a mid-February letter to parents, “and are pleased to say that we have seen a decrease, which allows for us to readdress the opening of our schools.”

Seymour asked that third- through sixth-grade families elect in-person or remote learning by Thursday, seventh-grade families by March 11 and eighth-grade families by March 18. The district will no longer offer a hybrid-learning option for grades going back full-time.

Some third, fourth and fifth-grade students were allowed to return last week if they have siblings in lower grades. Seymour hopes to open full time for ninth- through 12th-grade on April 12, according to a late-February letter to parents.

Kiana Machnicz’s daughters, who are in first and fifth grade, are among the students learning full-time in school buildings again.

“They’re doing better in school than they were with remote learning,” said Machnicz. “My first grader was seriously struggling. It was like pulling teeth. Now it’s nice that she’s coming home with actual work done.”

And it’s not just academics: Machnicz said she has seen a drastic improvement in her children’s mental health, especially that of her younger daughter.

“There was a huge mood change for her,” she said of her first grader.

Machnicz, who’s a single mom, has been pushing the district to reopen schools for months and said she’s “still very weary” that buildings will close again.

Wilson and Tencza said that if all families opt to return, students would have an average of two feet between them in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms, and three feet in sixth- through eighth-grade classrooms. They also said that buses and cafeterias would be full in most cases.

“We understand that the reduced social distancing may cause some parents to reevaluate their decision to send their children back to school,” they wrote in the letter. “This is why we need for you to let us know as soon as possible if you are electing for your child to not return for in-person learning.”

Students continuing with distance learning can remain with their fall term teachers. The families will not have the option to return to school again until mid-April, the midpoint of the last marking period.

The timelines are still subject to change.

“Please realize that any significant increase in our metrics may halt this plan at any time,” the letter states.

Wilson, who faced pressure from parents who wanted the district to move from hybrid to full-time in-person learning, submitted a letter of resignation to the Seymour Board of Education earlier this month. The resignation is effective June 30.