WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education has pushed back the first day of school by three days — to Sept. 3 — to give staff additional time to prepare for returning to classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We do not believe that starting on (Aug 31) would benefit our staff at all levels in order to make the best scenario available for our students and staff on the first day of school,” School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said during last week’s board meeting.
The board said the delay is a response to additional requirements and guidance from the state Department of Education and health officials, including an upcoming state decision on thresholds for moves between in-person schooling, all virtual learning and a hybrid model that would have students in school two days and at home three.
“We need to have all hands on deck so that everybody is truly prepared for whatever model we open under come Sept. 3,” Menzo said.
Although the state recently allowed districts to reduce next year’s academic calendar to 177 instructional days for students, Wallingford will remain at 180. The projected last day of school is June 11.
Both Sept. 3 and 4 will be early release days to allow teachers to reflect and make changes to benefit students.
The Board of Education also approved a distance learning plan for students who will be enrolled in the district’s Voluntary Virtual Option.
The plan includes a mix of live instruction using Google Meet and other software, paired with pre-recorded lessons and off-camera “flex times” for students to complete work on their own.
“We tried to take into consideration that a full day of learning online is a very challenging thing for our students, so we chunked out our instructional time,” Assistant School Superintendent Carrie LaTorre said during the Thursday meeting. “The instruction that will be provided live will be synchronous, so that students and teachers will be online at the same time, learning together.”
Should the pandemic subside during the school year the state could require students learning from home to return to the classroom.
Board member Kathy Castelli said the all-virtual plan provides structure with deadlines and the same grading system as classroom work.
“What I like about it is it takes a lot of the stress away from the parent of having to explain to their kids this is what you’re supposed to be doing, because now the teacher will be explaining it to them,” she said. “ … It’s a structured day. It’s not come and do it whenever you can … this is your structured day and that is what I love about this.”