Covid FAQ

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Questions Related to the Opening of Westbrook Schools

What are our options for the fall school year? Will there be a hybrid option if we choose or do we have to choose all in class or all online?

Schools will open on September 1st for a full return to in-person learning.  A parent may choose a temporary distance education option at any time, regardless of whether the district is doing hybrid or all students back at school at any point in the year.

Can one child in a family stay home while another goes to live classes?

That decision is at the discretion of the parent. Students have different physical and emotional needs and you may feel that in-person learning is appropriate for one child and that distance learning is necessary for the other. There are varied reasons why one child may be more at risk than another. 

If the Westbrook schools do any distance learning, how exactly will a preschooler do that?

Our preschoolers participated in Distance Learning during the last trimester of the 2019-2020 school year, along with all students in our school population.  Chromebooks were distributed to all students, including preschoolers, to help families access synchronous and asynchronous lessons from their classroom teachers and support staff.  WE understand the attention span of preschoolers is short and appreciate the assistance of parents/guardians in helping their child attend virtual lessons.

If we get uncomfortable with the schools being open, can we switch to virtual learning at any time?

Yes.  Please give the school at least a week’s notice so that we can plan for your child’s return.

Have we considered remote learning for the bulk of our middle and high school students?

Full remote learning is an unlikely option due to our low rate of illness from the coronavirus.  Permission to do distance learning for high school and middle school would likely require authorization from the State Department of Education and the Department of Public Health.

We are concerned about preschoolers or kindergartners being in a desk all day and not having as much play-based learning; what will the school day look like for the youngest students?

We do not expect our youngest students to be confined to a desk for long periods of time.  This is not realistic or developmentally appropriate.  We do expect our students to be engaged in hands-on, play-based learning activities, by providing them with individual materials and manipulatives and the space to use them.  We will continue to give our students movement breaks, both inside and outside the classroom.  We are encouraging our teachers to take students outside as much as possible for learning activities and additional recesses, as necessary.

How will distance learning be presented to students at home?

There will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning with live streaming and on-line assignments.  Students are expected to be present with their camera on for discussions and virtual lessons.

For the distant learning student, will high school students continue to be informed of any events going on in the school and continue to get guidance support for college requirements?

All students will continue to be informed of school events, college planning, and important dates and notices. All college visits will be virtual this year. School Counselors will be available in person and virtually for parents and students.

What would lead the district to change to a hybrid or distance learning model? 

The spread of the virus is the leading indicator that would trigger a change from in-person learning to hybrid or distance learning.  The state is looking at changing to hybrid if there are 10-24 cases per 100,000.  The change to distance learning would occur if there are 25+ cases per 100,000.

Other indicators trending upward, such as number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, will also impact the decision to change models.

We would like to know how many students have already committed to online learning by grade level? Will there be enough students to have an entire teacher devoted at the kindergarten or preschool level to just the online learners?

As of August 5, Westbrook will not be devoting a teacher solely to distance learning.

Pre-K - 4            Kindergarten - 6           Grade 1 - 4                Grade 2 - 8     Grade 3 - 2  Grade 4–5               Grade 5 - 1       Grade 6 - 4  Grade 7 - 6              Grade 8 - 5

Will there be a way like this Google Form for parents to continue to ask questions and express concerns once the school year begins?

Yes, it will be important to continue to collect parent feedback to accurately assess what aspects of the plan are working and what needs improvement.  

What if my family is traveling to one of the states on the quarantine list before school starts, or over a weekend?

Anyone traveling must be quarantined in accordance with state and DPH guidelines. Currently, for travel to a high-risk area, a fourteen-day quarantine is required.


Questions Related to Masks and Face Coverings

I am concerned that my 3-year-old is going to have trouble adjusting to all-day mask-wearing. This will be her first year at Preschool so everything will be new to her.

The Office of Early Childhood and the State Department of Education have come out with new guidance that preschool students are exempt from the mask requirement.

How long should we train our kids to wear a mask before there will be a mask break?

Students who are not used to wearing masks should increase their time gradually at home.  Start with short periods while doing fun activities and gradually increase the time. Teachers will watch their students closely and will do breaks as they see the need within the class.  This will be an important component of reacclimating to school.

What will happen if students or adults at different grade levels do not consistently keep their masks covering their noses?

Students and staff will be reminded of the proper way to wear their face covering and how their compliance helps reduce the risk of becoming ill or affecting the health of others.

We are concerned about any mask breaks that occur within a classroom including lunch and water breaks; what will mask breaks look like?

Teachers will schedule mask breaks throughout the day as needed.  Additionally, students will not wear their masks at water breaks, lunch, recess, or outdoors when socially distanced, and during PE.

One of our biggest concerns is having students in masks on the hottest days. Our unairconditioned classrooms get very, very hot even without masks; how will we address the heat, and have we considered pushing our start date back so that we do not have to combat the heat in masks?

Teachers will give frequent mask breaks.  On very hot days we will increase time outside, rotate classes through air-conditioned spaces, and increase water breaks.  If the weather continues to be hot, early dismissals or a brief change to remote learning will be considered with consultation from the health department and the State Department of Education. 

Starting school later in the year will push the end date longer and we could have the same situation in May and June.  Schools are required to complete 900 hours of instruction each year.  Although the Commissioner of Education reduced the school year to 177 days, the expectation for 900 hours remains.  Relief from the heat may be an acceptable distance learning option. We are waiting for an assurance that distance learning is a viable option on days of extreme heat.

If teachers take off face masks to teach, will there be any additional barriers in place such as plexiglass barriers or face shields?

Teachers and students are provided with a personal clear plastic barrier.  Additionally, Teachers must be 10 feet from students if they choose to take off their mask.  Face shields are available for teachers and support staff who must come in close contact with students with whom they are interacting.

We are very, very concerned about our children participating in unmasked PE class and recess-- even if outdoors, we would prefer our children not be on the playground equipment or in close proximity to other unmasked children; what will unmasked recess and PE look like?

Recess will be by cohort resulting in fewer students on the playground at one time.  Students will still be expected to socially distance.  New playscapes are being built at Daisy Ingraham School this summer.  The high touch areas will be cleaned with sanitizer in between groups.  

PE will be held outside when possible. CDC says,” Vigorous exercise in a confined space (e.g., indoors) may contribute to transmission of COVID-19 and should be limited.”

With safety in mind, will there be limitations placed on tool and equipment usage in the tech/shop classes at the middle & high schools? My concern lies in the use of loose-fitting cloth face coverings that could potentially tangle in machinery/ power tools during use.

Standard safety protocols dictate that any student using tools and equipment in technology education be properly attired (i.e., no loose clothing, jewelry, or anything that may hang or get caught in the machinery). PPE equipment will be assessed in a similar manner.

Can my child remove their mask while at their desk? They will be 6 ft away from others, correct? Which would be the same as a restaurant, but with people they see every day. Just put on when in halls or near others?

Students will not remove their masks while in the classroom unless instructed to by the teacher.  Students will be 6’ away wherever possible.

Will teachers be able to remove masks to teach? One report from the Commissioner said teachers can remove their masks while teaching in the front of the room with at least 6' from students. Will this be acceptable?

A teacher may remove their mask if behind a shield and more than 6 feet from students.


Questions Related to Transportation

Should I drive my child to school?

Parents are strongly encouraged to drive their child to school to reduce the number of students riding in close proximity on the school buses.

Are we staggering bus times so that middle school and high school are on different busses?

No

Are busses completely cleaned between routes?

Yes, busses will be sanitized between routes.

Will my bus stop be the same as in the past?

Bus stops may be adjusted by the bus company based on the number of riders.  Social distancing and masks are expected at the bus stop.


Questions Related to Cleaning and Sanitizing

Are parents required to send hand sanitizer in with students or will it be provided in the school?

Parents are not required to send in hand sanitizer.  The school will provide it.

Will there be sanitation done of the playgrounds or shared equipment?

We are planning to sanitize playground equipment in between use for different cohort classrooms.  In classrooms, we plan to provide individual student supplies and manipulatives. Shared equipment will be cleaned between groups.

Is there a plan or policy in place that addresses cleaning/sanitizing of musical instruments post use in school with primary focus on brass and woodwind type instruments that require physical contact with student/user mouth?

Musical instruments are not normally shared with other musicians.  There are specific cleaning and disinfecting protocols for various instruments.  Students will consult with the music teacher should disinfecting be necessary.

More guidance regarding music instruction is expected from the CT State Department of Education.


Questions Related to Temperature Checks and Covid Testing

If there is a COVID-19 case in any of the 3 buildings, with so much sibling and parent overlap, will the whole district go to distance learning?

Decisions regarding the closing of schools across the district must be made in consultation with the Public Health Director.  The school may be closed for 2-5 days for assessment of a confirmed COVID -19 case and cleaning of the building.  The class cohort, and/or any other close contacts of the individual who tested positive, would be advised to self-quarantine and self-monitor symptoms for 14 days since last being in the cohort with the individual and at least 24 hours have passed with no fever, without fever reducing medication.  Close contacts would be determined based on contact tracing from the Westbrook Health Department and with assistance of the school nurse.  Close contacts are defined as individuals who were within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more.

Will everyone's temperature be taken midday in case a fever spikes during the day?

Checking temperatures are not recommended by DPH at school because the results may not be reliable. Environmental factors can affect the accuracy of the results.  Students who are exerting themselves or hot due to being outside or in a hot classroom may appear symptomatic. Conversely, a student without a temperature may be ill with the virus and have other mild symptoms or not be symptomatic at all.

Are the parents/guardians responsible for checking the temperature in the morning or the school?

Parents are asked to check their child’s temperature at home along with answering questions about having other symptoms or other exposure to the virus.

Do the students and staff get Covid-19 tested before school starts? 

The district is not requiring that students and staff get COVID-19 tested before the start of school.

Will parents be told the names of children or staff that are sick?

Patient confidentiality is critical and cannot be compromised.  The right to privacy is a protection under the law.

 


Questions Related to Social Distancing and Building Concerns

Are you able to promise the recommended 6 feet of social distancing in classrooms? 

No.  The guidance from the State Department of Education is to “maximize distance between student workstations, achieving 6 feet when feasible.”  We will consistently work toward that goal.  Some classrooms are more spacious than others.  Other rooms, like science labs, are configured in less traditional ways making 6 feet challenging depending on the size of the class. Students may naturally gravitate toward each other and will need reminders to maintain social distancing.

Do you have any plans for incorporating more temporary outdoor classrooms?

Tents have been purchased to provide shade when learning or eating outdoors.  There are not enough tents for every class to use. These outdoor spaces will be scheduled among interested classes. The tents are not suitable for year-round use. We are also looking at utilizing natural shade that exists in varying amounts on the campuses of our three schools.

Will teachers be able to bring their classes outside at any time to conduct class? Or will there be a limit?

Teachers will be able to take their classes outside as they see fit as long as they can maintain social distance and not mix with another cohort of students.

How big are the classroom sizes going to be? 

They are 10-16 students per class in a full-in model, depending on grade level and subject area.

Will there be no lockdown drills or fire drills in the fall to reduce students’ close proximity to each other?

This continues to be under discussion with the CSDE, DPH, and the State Fire Marshal. A decision is expected soon.

Is there any plan in place for how music classes will proceed?

When students are not singing or playing an instrument that requires the use of their mouths, they will wear a cloth face-covering in music class (unless the class is outdoors and distance can be maintained). Social distancing helps protect students in music class.

While students are singing or playing an instrument, the teacher will use visual cues to keep them at least 12 feet apart. If it is safe and weather permits, teachers will consider moving class outdoors where air circulation is better than indoors while maintaining at least 12 feet distance between students.

Additional guidance from the CSDE is expected soon.

I would like to know if the school will be open 8:00-3:00?

The school day for students is as follows: 

Daisy Ingraham School: 8:30 am - 3:00 pm

Westbrook Middle School: 7:45 - 2:25pm

Westbrook High School:  7:50 am - 2:20 pm

Will the public have access to the schools?

Although schools will be back in session, in order to reduce exposure of staff and students the schools will continue to limit visitor access.  Meetings, open house, and guest speakers will continue in a virtual format. Visitors who have a specific educational purpose or the visit is required by law are asked to make an appointment in advance.  Anyone entering the building must go through the screening process.

Are we utilizing more open spaces like the libraries and gymnasiums as much as possible to reduce the number of students in small classrooms sharing the same air?

Yes, as well as to provide an opportunity to cool down in hot weather.

We are concerned about bathrooms being dangerous as people are more likely to take off masks and toilets can aerosolize the virus and bathrooms tend to be poorly ventilated; what will the bathroom situation look like?

Bathrooms will be cleaned during the day and after school.  Ventilation systems will increase the percentage of outdoor air.  The number of students in multi-stall bathrooms will be reduced.

Are there changes to the ventilation and water system?

Westbrook maintenance staff assess the efficiency of our heating, cooling, and water systems in the district.  We follow the CDC recommendations and have increased the airflow within the building to at or above the CDC guidelines.  Outside vendors provide HVAC repairs as necessary.  Every night the outside air is 100% unless the humidity level is excessive.  Water is thoroughly flushed every week.  The CT Water Company does quarterly testing on the water supply.

Has there been modifications to the windows in the district to open to their full capacity instead of the 2" that they are set to?

The windows are not modified. The new windows at Daisy Ingraham, however, open 12 inches. Middle School windows open less than 12 inches. 


Questions Related to Cohorts

How are students protected in a cohort?

A cohort is a group of students and staff who stay together as a group throughout the school day to minimize exposure for students and staff across the school environment.

With cohorting, will students be able to attend specials with the specials teachers?

Students will have special classes including art, music, library, Spanish, computer, and physical education within their class cohort K-8 and within their grade cohort at the high school. The delivery as to whether it will be in the students’ classroom or in the specials area is specific to the school.  Physical Education classes will be conducted outside, weather permitting. The CDC states that vigorous exercise in a confined space (e.g., indoors) should be limited.

I would like to know your plan for cohorting. Are the 35 incoming 5th graders going to be split among the three 5th grade teachers that we met in the spring, in cohorts that will remain protected from exposure to other cohorts to the greatest extent possible?

Grade 5 students will be divided into three cohorts.

With many students in 4th grade, how will students be socially distancing in these classes?

We are currently looking at ways to reduce the size of classroom cohorts in fourth grade.

How are you going to prevent my children from contracting COVID-19 as they might bring it home and infect grandparents who live with us?

The school cannot guarantee that your child will not contract COVID-19, but we will do our very best to keep your child safe with mitigation strategies such as cohorting, social distancing, wearing face masks, extra cleaning protocols throughout the day, frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, teaching sneeze and cough etiquette, and frequent reminders of the importance of these precautions.

What is your plan to protect specials' teachers and specialists (Interventionists, ESOL, Social workers, etc.) from an inordinate amount of exposure? If these adults are exposed to the entire student body, isn't the idea of cohorting compromised?

Special area teachers are working with cohorts for an extended time, rather than changing from group to group. Some teachers have more exposure than others due to the nature of their jobs.  PPE equipment such as face shields and other barriers such as plexiglass may be used. 


Questions Related to Lunch and Water Availability

Will kids be getting hot lunch? Where will they be eating? How will lunch work?

In the elementary and middle school, some students will eat in the cafeteria socially distanced while other groups will eat in other locations such as eating lunch outside, as weather allows. In the middle school, students will likely eat in classrooms. 

At the high school, we have scheduled for three lunch waves. Students will be divided between the gym and the cafeteria, as well as outside (picnic tables with tents) which has always been an option.

Will there still be access to school made (Hot) lunches? How will they be distributed? Will students be required to bring in their own lunches?

Students may bring their lunches or purchase a grab and go lunch.  Choices will be more limited.

Will personal water bottles be allowed?

Personal water bottles are encouraged.  There are bottle refilling stations at the middle school.  There are sinks in the elementary classrooms for refilling water bottles. The high school has a water cooler and a water vending machine.

If there are no water fountains available, will there be bottled water on hand for students who forget a water bottle that day or run out of water?

At Daisy, there are sinks in each classroom, where students will be encouraged to refill their water bottles.  The water fountains will be disabled for safety.

Water bottle filling stations are available at the middle school.

At the high school, water vending machines are available to students.  Additionally, a water dispenser will be available.


Miscellaneous Questions

Will there be before/after school childcare?

The YMCA will provide before and after school programming at the elementary level.  Other possible programs are also being discussed.

If my child needs to stay home for any illness for an extended time, what will this look like if I am a district teacher?

Teachers would follow the normal protocols for family illness.  Normal sick leave would apply unless it is COVID-19 related.

Will substitutes be jumping from district to district?

We are employing two building subs who will be assigned full-time to each school.  Additional subs will be requested per the usual process.

While we like the Pledge of Allegiance, we are not sure any communal chanting or singing is a good idea even with masks; will there be any pledging or singing?

Students will continue to say the Pledge of Allegiance softly to themselves while being broadcast over the loudspeaker.  The CDC recommends while students are singing or playing an instrument, teachers use visual cues to keep them at least 12 feet apart. If it’s safe and weather permits, they should consider moving class outdoors where air circulation is better than indoors and maintain at least 6 feet distance between students.