Return to Learn FAQ

Return to Learn FAQ

Return to Learn: Frequently Asked Questions

November 16, 2020

What is Hartford Public Schools’ plan for Fall 2020?

Per guidance provided by the State of Connecticut, Hartford Public Schools will offer in-person learning to our students for the fall. Students also have the option to learn online. For details about our instructional models, please read our Return to Learn Manual: Reopening Plan for SY 2020-2021.

Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Hartford County and the City of Hartford, as of November 16, 2020, HPS transitioned to the “Orange” status in our Operational Decision Meter. In Orange, in-person PreK students attend school four days per week and remotely on Wednesdays. In-person K-9 students are divided into Groups (A, B, and C) that attend school two days per week and remotely on the other three days. In-person students in grades 10-12 continue in the hybrid model. All in-person students have half-day Wednesdays for remote learning.

Our Return to Learn plan for reopening school may change based on future guidance from the State of Connecticut, local health agencies, and the CDC.


What information did you use to develop plans to safely open in Fall 2020?

We are following guidance from the State Department of Education as well as local, state, and federal public health officials. This guidance might change and our plans would change accordingly. By request of the Department of Education, we have developed three models for returning to school: a full time in-person model, a full time online learning model, and a hybrid model. 

The voices of our students, family and staff play an important role in developing our plan for the 2020-2021 school year. We need to know from our community what worked well and what needs to improve. We also want to learn more about the barriers and challenges that our families are facing so that we can better collaborate with our community partners to meet those needs.


Are there any teachers or parents helping make these decisions?

Yes. The district’s decision-making process is led by the Return to Learn & Accelerate Task Force, which includes administrators, school leaders, teachers, district staff, community partners, and parents. 

One of the task force’s guiding principles is “people first,” which means prioritizing the needs and challenges of those most affected by reopening plans — our students, families, and staff. We have sought input from our families and teachers and will continue to gather feedback from members of our school community through surveys, Town Halls, and other means.


What will in-person schooling look like?

This option is a traditional, at-school learning experience with additional safety measures based on guidelines from health officials. As of Nov. 16, in-person students will learn in school and remotely. 

For the safety of all, we will implement the following safety measures:

  • All students and staff will wear masks in school. HPS will provide masks.
  • In the Orange status (hybrid model), physical distancing of 6 feet in classrooms,will be enforced. PreK-8 students will be grouped in cohorts by grade level.
  • Regular hand-washing/sanitizing will be required for all students and staff. 
  • School buildings will be cleaned and sanitized daily.
  • School buses will serve all students eligible for transportation, and buses will be cleaned after each trip. Diagonal seating arrangements will be implemented for distancing.
  • Meals: Grades PreK-1 will start the year receiving their meals in the classroom. Grades 2-12 will receive their meals in the cafeteria, with additional overflow spaces (if needed), with physical distancing. 

Families who start the school year with in-school instruction will have the option to shift to online learning at the end of each quarter, a model which is described below. 


Can my child continue with distance learning?

Yes.  Students whose families opt out of in-person learning can participate through fully virtual online learning. 


What are the different options for returning to school in the fall?

Options for SY20-21  Option A:

In-person learning (hybrid model if health conditions worsen)

Option B:

Online learning to start, option to change to in-person later

Description of Options In-person Learning: Students safely learn in school Hybrid: Students learn safely in school and away from school 100% Online Learning:

Students safely learn away from school 

More Details  In-person instruction: Traditional, at- school learning experience with additional safety measures implemented based on guidelines from governing entities. 

Students attend each day of the week.

Option for Distance Learning as needed for individual families who opt in

Hybrid Instruction: In the event that strict physical distancing guidelines are put in place for schools, instruction will be broken up into A/B groupings that use the following pattern.

Monday & Tuesday: Group A

Wednesday: All Distance 

Thursday & Friday: Group B

Option for Distance Learning as needed for individual families who opt in

Online Learning: Students attend classes from home on a regular school schedule, allowing for easier transition to in-person instruction when conditions are deemed safe by individual families.

Instruction delivered by certified staff but potentially not certified in the specific content area.

External Health Conditions A minimal and controlled level of COVID-19 in our community as determined by local health officials,  meaning new chains of transmission are limited. Authorities are advising residents to resume normal contact with others unless they’ve been exposed to the virus or are sick with the virus. A moderate, but controlled level of COVID-19 in our community as determined by local health officials, meaning there is demonstrated reduction in transmission and local healthcare systems are within capacity. Authorities are advising residents to remain vigilant, but to resume activities using recommended social distancing where possible. Not applicable 
Physical Distancing 6 feet of distance will be maintained where possible. In classrooms, however, students will likely be less than 6 feet apart. 6 feet of distance will be strictly maintained. Not applicable 
Transportation Buses will serve all eligible students needing transportation, likely meaning buses will be close to full capacity. Buses will serve all eligible students needing transportation. Given the reduced number of students going to school on any given day, buses will likely be at less than 50% capacity. Not applicable 
Each bus will be cleaned after each trip and at the end of the day. All bus riders must wear a mask. No student will be allowed on the bus without a mask. Bus drivers will have extra masks on hand for students without.
Health & Safety Precautions Masks for students and staff

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Food Services Grades PK-1 will start the year receiving their meals in the classroom. Grades 2-12 will receive their meals in the cafeteria, with additional overflow spaces (if needed), with physical distancing.  Breakfast at all grade levels will be “Grab and Go” breakfast carts for classroom feeding. Classroom feeding at lunch will be pre-packed in coolers for classroom feeding and served to students by teacher/adult.  Student meals will be distributed from HPS schools sites.


What is the deciding factor in whether we use in-person, online or hybrid learning?

Considering state guidance and feedback from families about learning preferences, HPS is  offering in-person learning and remote learning options to families. To guide our decision making, HPS developed an Operational Decision Meter (see below) with specific health metrics. These metrics, provided by the state, will help us determine which learning models are safe and best for our students and staff based on the current status of COVID-19 in our community. Specifically, the leading metric we will be using is a 14-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 people in Hartford County. A secondary metric is the 14-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 in the City of Hartford.

As of November 16,  in-person students in PreK will attend school four days per week, and learn remotely on Wednesdays. In-person students in K-9 classes with 15 or more students will be divided into Groups A and B; each group will attend school two days per week and learn remotely the other three days.  In-person students in grades 10-12 will continued in the hybrid model. 

Should conditions change, our plan will update accordingly. 

Operational Decision Meter GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED
External Health Conditions Metrics Minimal/controlled COVID19 level

 < 1 new case per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)


Secondary indicators: < 1 new case per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14- day average)

Percent positivity rate

Moderate/controlled COVID19 level

  1 – 10 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)


Secondary indicators: 1 – 10 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14 day average)

Percent positivity rate

Significant/uncontrolled COVID19 level

 10 to < 25 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)


Secondary indicators: 10 to < 25 new cases per 100,000 population in the City of Hartford (14-day average)

Percent positivity rate

Severe/uncontrolled COVID19 level

 25+ new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)


Secondary:  25+ new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-7 day average)

Percent positivity rate

Learning Model by Grade* ●       Grades PreK – 9: Fully in-person


●       Grades 10 – 12: Fully in-person

●       Grades PreK – 9: Fully in-person


●       Grades 10 – 12: Hybrid

(Group A on Mon/Tue, Group B on Thur/Fri, Remote  for All on Wed)

●       PreK: In-person M/T/Th/F, remote on Wed

  •  Grades K – 9: Hybrid

(Group A on Mon/Tue, Group B on Thur/Fri, Remote for All on Wed). Classes with 14 or fewer students will remain together as Group C and attend school in-person on Mon/Tues or Thur/Fri


●       Grades 10 – 12: Hybrid (Group A on Mon/Tue, Group B on Thur/Fri, Remote  for All on Wed)

●       Grades PreK – 9: Fully remote


●       Grades 10 – 12: Fully remote

*Families may opt-in for online learning. To support continuity of learning and relationship building, we strongly encourage a commitment to one learning option during the entire marking period. There will be an opportunity to reassess the need to change at the end of the marking period.
Learning Model Description Fully in-person, every day, for all students 

In classrooms students will be less than 6 feet apart. 

Large group and “high risk” activities will be restricted as needed.

Some grade levels shift to a Hybrid model, with Wednesdays fully remote.

Physical distancing protocols will continue to be monitored.

Large group and “high risk” activities may be restricted.

Most grades, except PreK,  will shift to or remain in a Hybridl.

Physical distancing protocols will be closely monitored.

“High risk” activities may be restricted or prohibited.

All grade levels shift to fully remote learning until the COVID-19 situation improves.

Some small-group instruction may be allowed with strict physical distancing protocols in place.



What safety precautions will the school district take to minimize the spread of COVID-19? 

To keep our students, families, and staff as safe as possible, our schools will follow state guidance and safety measures, including but not limited to the following:

  • All students and staff will be required to wear face coverings while in school
  • In PK-8 grades, students will be organized into “cohorts,” or groups that stay together throughout the day to minimize contact
  • Student desks and workstations will be distanced to the maximum extent possible 
  • School buildings are cleaned daily and “high touch” areas disinfected
  • Signs will be posted in school buildings to remind students and staff to wash hands or sanitize, and wear face coverings
  • Hallways and stairwells will have designated foot-traffic patterns to direct students and staff to walk in one direction, at a distance
  • Grades PK-1 will start the year receiving their meals in the classroom. Grades 2-12 will receive their meals in the cafeteria, with additional overflow spaces (if needed), with physical distancing. 
  • Students who are eligible for bus transportation will be physically distanced and required to wear masks on school buses. Buses will be cleaned after each trip and at the end of every day. 

School staff will maintain records of students and staff who report COVID-19 symptoms in order to track and contain the spread of the virus.


What happens if a student develops symptoms while in school?

If a student develops symptoms of illness while at school, the student will be immediately brought to the school nurse to be assessed. If the student has COVID-19-like symptoms, he/she will wait with a staff member in an isolated waiting room while their family is contacted and asked to pick up their child. If the nurse determines that the student should be picked up to return home, the school nurse may also advise the family to contact the child’s primary care provider to determine if he/she should be tested for COVID-19.


What happens if someone in school tests positive for COVID-19?

If a positive COVID-19 case is identified in a school, HPS and Hartford Health Department will work together to follow protocol and local, state, and federal guidelines. The district’s contract tracing nurse will contact school administrators to gather further information and advise on next steps. The District Health & Safety Team is notified of a potential or confirmed case and consults with DHHS. The nurse begins Contact Tracing and assembles a list of “close contacts,” or any individuals who were within less than six feet, for 15 minutes or longer, of the infected student or staff member. All close contacts are notified and advised to stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days. 


Following district- and school-level consultation, principals then notify families and staff via email and phone call about the positive case and steps taken. 


Schools are notified to schedule enhanced cleaning protocols, and additional cleaning support and resources are made available as needed. If a school bus is involved, the district Transportation Manager notifies the bus company (Autumn Transportation) and identifies the bus to remove from service and schedule for deep cleaning. The Regional School Choice Office (RSCO) Transportation Services are notified in cases involving the transport of non-Hartford resident students.


The decision to shut down a school and move to online learning as a result of a case would be based on several factors, including but not limited to: when the case was confirmed, the last time the individual was in school, whether there are additional cases, how many individuals are told to self-quarantine, mitigation strategies being employed, as well as whether we can determine, with a level of confidence, who is a contact of the positive case.


Depending on the situation, HPS, in consultation with the Hartford Health Department, may decide to close a school so contact tracing and cleaning can occur.


Will families be notified if a student has been exposed to a possible case of COVID-19 or tests positive? 

Our commitment is to be transparent and take necessary precautionary steps. We will notify families and staff in affected schools of confirmed COVID-19 cases. When there is a confirmed case in a school, the district will consult the Hartford Health Department to first identify who needs to self-quarantine, for how long, and whether a school closure is warranted. These decisions are made on a cases by case basis. 

As soon as all of the details of each case are confirmed and affected individuals are contacted, the principal will notify families and staff by email and phone. 


What conditions would cause the district to change plans and how?

Per state guidance, Hartford Public Schools prepared plans to return to in-person instruction in Fall 2020-21, with options for online learning. Our Operational Decision Meter (see above) provides details about how the district would adjust if local health conditions change.


 Can you describe the “hybrid” model?

If Connecticut experiences a resurgence of COVID-19, the plan for full time, in-school instruction will change to the hybrid learning model. Under this scenario:

  • In grades K-12, half of the students attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half attend in person on Thursdays and Fridays. 
  • On Wednesdays, all students learn remotely to enable time for teacher professional learning and deep cleaning of facilities


If I opt for remote learning, will my child lose their spot in a magnet school?

No. If you choose the remote learning option, then you will be able to retain your child’s magnet school placement offer or seat. 

However, if you withdraw your child from HPS and choose to homeschool — that is, teach your child at home —  you would forfeit your magnet school placement offer or seat. You will need to submit a new application through the RSCO Lottery for the 2021-22 school year.


What if my child or someone in my family is at high risk of infection?

We know that some families may not feel comfortable sending or be able to send their children back to school in-person, so we will offer a full-time online learning option starting in 2020-2021. If you choose this option, you will have the opportunity to return to in-person learning if your preference changes.


Will the district test students or staff for COVID-19?  Why or why not?

Yes. In partnership with the City of Hartford and local health providers, the district  offers testing to symptomatic students. Additionally, mobile testing for staff and families is available at school sites that are announced each week . Please see the district website for details:   


How are schools cleaned and sanitized?

Prior to COVID-19, the regular daily cleaning included the cleaning floors, bathrooms, emptying of trash receptacles, refilling of soap dispensers and other related tasks. In accordance with the Federal, State and City guidance, HPS added a disinfecting protocol to the regular cleaning schedule. 

The disinfecting protocol includes the following tasks:

  • Bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected 3x per day
  • “High touch areas” are cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. These areas include door-knobs/panels, light switches, handrails, and countertops.
  • Student desks are disinfected 1x per day


Will students be able to take buses to school?

Yes, school bus transportation is available to students who are eligible. However, safety precautions will include mandatory face coverings and physical distancing at bus stops and inside buses. HPS buses are completely disinfected twice per day (after AM and PM routes). Diagonal seating arrangements will be implemented for physical distancing.

How will the buses be cleaned and disinfected?

The bus company serving Hartford Public Schools students uses a process known as fogging, which applies heat and dispenses a disinfecting chemical that dries within minutes. This process is done in each bus after morning drop offs and afternoon runs with a machine known as Petra.   


Will school uniforms be required?

Uniforms are expected for in-person learners. If families have difficulty obtaining a uniform, they should reach out to their child’s school directly for support or accomodations with our uniform policy. 

Students who are learning at home do not need to wear a uniform but they should be out of bed, fully dressed and sitting at a desk or work area with their device ready to learn.


Are schools going to do temperature checks?

Temperature checks are not required by the state’s Reset, Reopen, Reimagine plan as an elevated temperature is only one of many symptoms of Covid-19. If we return to in-person instruction or a hybrid model, the district will follow strict health and safety protocols recommended by that state and other health authorities, including mandatory face coverings for students and staff, physical distancing, handwashing, and daily cleaning and disinfecting of school buildings and buses. Students who have COVID symptoms should stay home from school.

 In partnership with the City of Hartford Health Department, HPS is distributing free smart thermometers to families. Each thermometer comes with instructions on how to use it with a smartphone app that collects health data for the city. Additional thermometers will be available, when school resumes in September, at individual elementary schools upon request. We recommend taking your child’s temperature every morning before school to make sure it is below 100.0 degrees F and it is safe for your child to attend school.


What is HPS doing to improve ventilation and air quality to prevent spread of the virus?

Our Approach is Grounded in the CDC’s Guidance.

“Consider ventilation system upgrades or improvements and other steps to increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants in the school. Obtain consultation from experienced Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment.”  

*CDC Guidance as of 9/1/2020 

HPS Actions to Optimize Ventilation Systems

    • School HVAC systems will purge facility air daily for two hours when students and staff are not in school.
    • Ventilation systems will run constantly when facilities are occupied. 
  • Window air conditioners: All filters will be cleaned, units will be cleaned regularly, and adjustments will be made to increase fresh air intake. 
  • Exhaust Fans: HVAC personnel are ensuring full operation of exhaust fans in facilities with such fans.
  • Filters: Filters are being upgraded to MERV13 as practicable


HVAC System Filter Upgrades (as of 10/17/2020)
Upgrade Status  # of Schools % of Schools Notes
Completed 32 ~89% MERV 13
In Progress 2 ~5.5% Partially complete, waiting on additional filters
Not Applicable 2 ~5.5% Window units only



School Status as of 10/17/20
Bellizzi Asian Studies Completed
Batchelder School Completed
Betances School Completed
Breakthrough South Completed
Bulkeley 11th-12th @ Mark Twain  N/A (window units only)
Burns Elementary/ HPKM South Completed
Burr/BSTEM Completed
Capital Prep. Magnet Completed
Classical Magnet/ Renzulli Completed
Dwight – Bulkeley 9th-10th N/A (window units only)
Lewis Fox Middle School – AF Completed
Fisher – Montessori – STEM Completed
Global/ HPKM/Adult Ed Completed
Hartford Public HS Completed
HMTCA Completed
Hooker Completed
Kennelly Completed



School Status as of 10/17/20
Kinsella Performing Arts Completed
McDonough Completed
MD Fox Completed
Milner Middle Completed
ML King/ Breakthrough North Completed
Moylan Completed
Naylor Completed
Parkville Completed
Rawson In Progress
Sanchez In Progress
SAND Completed
Sports Medical Science Academy Completed
Univ. Sci & Eng. Completed
Weaver High School/Kinsella HS Completed
Webster Completed
West Middle Completed
Wish Completed



Will there be sports activities?

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has announced that all fall sports will begin on Saturday, August 29. That includes football, volleyball, cross country, swimming, soccer, and field hockey. Sports activities are restricted to low-risk conditioning and non-contact skill work, in cohorts no larger than 10, through Sept. 20. The CIAC will monitor COVID metrics daily and provide an update to member schools each Friday.


What social-emotional supports will be in place for students and staff in the event  someone gets sick?

HPS recognizes that the social and emotional wellbeing of our staff and students is of the utmost importance as we plan to return to learning. The district will focus on the following belief statements as we transition to learning:

  • We believe it is crucial to focus on basic needs first 
  • We believe it is imperative to enhance and cultivate our sense of community 
  • We believe that building positive relationships is ongoing 
  • We believe that listening to student and family voices and perspectives is respected and heard 
  • We believe reestablishing or school culture and classroom communities comes first 

The district uses various research-based models and best practices to support trauma-informed Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools, including: Restorative Practices, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Second Step, and Mindfulness.

School social workers (SSWs) and school-based teams are also versed in Crisis Prevention and Intervention, including resources for coping with grief and loss and trauma. Many SSWs are able to provide Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Trauma-Informed groups and we have community partners who also offer these services. 

HPS has also partnered with UConn School of Social Work to provideMasters-level social work interns who will offer culturally responsive, trauma-informed risk assessment and counseling to students as needed. 

Staff have Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources accessible online and on the phone. If the district shifts to a fully online or hybrid learning model, our school staff and community partners, and the Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services or crisis teams, 211, are all adept at offering teletherapy and online services. 


Will before and aftercare be available for the 2020-2021 school year?

We recognize the need for before/aftercare programs to continue and we are working to finalize how we can safely offer programs to support families and students. If conditions allow for in-person learning, the following guidelines would apply to before/aftercare:

  • Classrooms and cohorts: Students will be grouped into cohorts when feasible. Classrooms that minimize students’ exposure to other students and common areas will be utilized for on-site after-school programming.
  • Physical Distancing: Physical distancing will be adhered to by all providers and students participating in the program. 
  • Masks: All attendees in after school/extended day must wear a mask. 
  • Health Monitoring: Students coming to the after school/extended day program will go through the health check process, which entails a temperature check at the beginning of the program. After school/Extended Day employees will go through the health check process at the beginning of their shift.
  • Contact Tracing: Attendance will be taken each day and saved for contact tracing.
  • Cleaning: Spaces used for after school and extended day programming will be cleaned and sanitized daily.