Stratford Board of Education Meeting: 1/26/2021
By Michael Suntag
The Stratford Board of Education met at its monthly meeting on the evening of 1/26/2021. Monthly meetings are the last Monday of each month and are held virtually.
During the public forum, 2 speakers presented to the Board. A representative of the Stratford Education Association urged the board to deliberate with caution about opening schools 4 days a week. He spoke to President Biden’s plan for testing and ventilation in order to get students back to school asking why this plan is going into effect now when Our schools do not have testing for all students and in some schools that do not have proper ventilation. He cited cases being higher here than in England where schools have been closed down.
The second speaker, Harold Grace, called in support of the plan to institute an increase in half day Wednesdays for k-8 so that teachers can have time to have structured collaborative time. This would be full day for teachers and half days for students. Time would be used to connect with students who have curriculum needs, to do collaborative planning necessary because of the need to develop new strategies for students caused by school changes in response to COVID-19. Brian Darcey stated that this is beneficial for students and staff – it is not a time off – they are doing more than on non-traditional days – they connect with students who have hard times to connect normally – they connect with tutors, teachers, special projects are definitely a need. Half day for students and full day for teachers.
The Board approved Wednesday half days to begin in two weeks.
Dr. Robinson provided her Superintendent’s Executive Summary Report. She spoke about the State school safety plans being submitted on time. School system is now in complete compliance. Some schools have student cases of positive tests and teacher absences. Dr. Robinson spoke about the protocols that are utilized in each school including daily check in where those with symptoms are flagged to a nurse so they can administer a rapid test. Findings are that students who have positive tests are not picking it up in schools. Teachers are not eligible for vaccinations yet as they do not fall within the 1b cycle.
The Board approved roof replacements and New Solar Arrays for Chapel, Second Hill, Wooster, Bunnell, Stratford Academy and Johnson House.
The Board also approved new curriculum including: Conversations on Race Course, African/Black/Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, College Algebra 2/MAT 120 and Chemistry 2.
Board approved 2 days as snow days. Anything over 2 days will revert to remote learning. Board member stated that there has been four times more students quarantined this week than last. Students are finding it hard to deal with the changes.
Discussion ensued on the social/emotional needs of students. Dr. Robinson spoke about all the work the schools are doing on attending to social/emotional needs of student. There was also discussion about the social/emotional needs of teachers.
Many teachers fear being in schools when there is community spread. Dr. Robinson pointed to the existing mitigations: masks, hand washing, shields, social distance. There is a process for catching those with symptoms and on contract tracing. When teachers can get vaccinated, there will be less concern.
A Board member spoke about her concern for the high school level where student groups are isolated and unsupervised.
Questions were also raised about developing additional strategies for use of virtual programs and for improving the level of academics for those on remote learning including use of a virtual academy model. Dr. Robinson replied that with the changing numbers of students in and out of school it would be hard to develop that type of program as well as with certification issues.
Questions were raised about specific responses to improving instruction virtually. The need for a specific plan or a response to pilot is critical. There needs to be a way to increase learning while children re remotely learning. Why this has not happened over the last several months is problematical according to two board members.
Graduation is set for June 15th . State has mandated that it must happen on that day.
Discussion about students who have been found to be in the wrong school districts. Three students have been identified and work continues on finding those illegally attending Stratford Schools.
Budget preparation workshop begin on Thursday 1/28/2021. The Superintendent search committee is continuing their search and met on Wednesday 1/27/2021.