MERIDEN — The Board of Education is scheduled to meet in person for the first time Tuesday at a special meeting where members will practice the same social distancing and mask wearing protocols expected from students and teachers this fall.
Since Gov. Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many school boards quickly adapted to a new format: meeting through online video platforms to conduct monthly business. But now, Meriden is looking to get back together — while sitting at least six feet apart.
“We are asking our students and staff to return to school in person, and we need to lead by example,” said Board of Education President Robert Kosienski Jr.
Board members and administrators will utilize safety precautions like hand sanitizing, masks and social distancing, they said. It was unclear Friday if other school districts have begun in-person meetings.
“(Kosienski) has given folks the opportunity to participate in person or virtually,” said School Superintendent Mark Benigni. “ Students have been invited to attend the meeting, but the decision to attend will be entirely up to them, as some Board of Ed members will be participating virtually, while they are out of state on vacation.”
Lauren Mancini-Averitt, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers union, applauded the board’s action.
“We look forward to sharing the safety protocols put in place,” said Mancini-Averitt. “By BOE meetings set to be in person, it models how social distancing can work. It would be hypocritical to ask teachers and students to do something that BOE members cannot achieve. Meriden Public Schools has worked collaboratively with all unions to ensure a plan that considers the safety of all staff and students.”
The school board is expected to discuss the school system‘s reopening plan especially in light of changing guidance from the state Department of Education that gives school boards more flexibility on setting protocols. The guidance change also means the official school opening could be pushed back from Aug. 31 in Meriden to Sept. 9 to allow schools more time to prepare.
Also under consideration are changes in the way students will be grouped together. City educators are looking at cohorting middle schoolers similar to the way elementary school students are grouped; the same class of students will remain together throughout the day. A variety of hybrid options will be explored and discussed for high school students.
The 6 p.m. meeting will also be shared on Google meet: meet.google.com/qba-tigf-hex
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