Return to Learn FAQ
Return to Learn: Frequently Asked Questions
September 17, 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.
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. Students will learn in school each day of the week.
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 classrooms, physical distancing will be practiced to the extent possible. 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.
- 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, 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)
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.
As of the start of school on September 9, students in grades PreK-9 attended fully in-person and grades 10-12 operated in the hybrid model. Should conditions change, our plan will update accordingly.
|Operational Decision Meter||GREEN||YELLOW||ORANGE||RED|
|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.||A significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in our community as determined by local health officials, meaning that there is ongoing transmission of the virus. Authorities are advising residents to minimize contact with others and avoid medium or large gatherings.||A severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in our community, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening. Authorities are advising residents to take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs.|
|Leading Indicators (in Hartford County)||< 1 new case per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)||1 – 10 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)||10 to < 25 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)||25+ new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (14-day average)|
|Secondary Indicators (in Hartford City)||< 1 new case per 100,000 population
Percent Positivity Rate
|1 to < 10 new cases per 100,000 population
Percent Positivity Rate
|10 to < 25 new cases per 100,000 population
Percent Positivity Rate
|25+ new cases per 100,000 populationPercent 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)
||● 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 opportunity to reassess the need to change at the end of the marking period, October 30, 2020.|
|Learning Model Description||We will use a fully in-person daily schedule for all students. This will mean in many classrooms students will be less than 6 feet apart. Large group and/or “high risk” activities will continue to be restricted as needed.||Some grade levels will shift to a Hybrid model. Wednesdays will be fully remote for grade levels operating in the Hybrid model. Physical distancing protocols will continue to be monitored and large group and/or “high risk” activities may be restricted.||All grade levels will shift to a Hybrid or fully remote model. Physical distancing protocols will be closely monitored and “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 will be 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:
- Students in grades PreK-8 will be divided into Groups A and B. 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.
- Students in grade 9-12 will be fully remote learners.
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. The district announced a partnership with the City of Hartford and local health providers to offer symptomatic testing to students. The testing will begin in late fall. In the meantime, free testing is available in multiple locations in Hartford, as well as at mobile sites at HPS schools. Check the district website and social media for updates, as well as the State of Connecticut’s website page focused on COVID-19: https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus
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).
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. Over 6600 MERV13 filters have been installed since August 15.
|HVAC System Filter Upgrades (as of 10/16/2020)|
|Upgrade Status||# of Schools||% of Schools||Notes|
|In Progress||2||~6%||Partially complete, waiting on additional filters|
|Not Applicable||2||~6%||Window units only|
|Bellizzi Asian Studies||Completed|
|Bulkeley 11th-12th @ Mark Twain||N/A (window units only)|
|Burns Elementary/ HPKM South||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|
|Kinsella Performing Arts||Completed|
|ML King/ Breakthrough North||Completed|
|Sports Medical Science Academy||Completed|
|Univ. Sci & Eng.||Completed|
|Weaver High School/Kinsella HS||Completed|
Will there be sports activities?
Hartford Public Schools is currently moving forward with high school girls’ volleyball, boys and girls’ soccer, boys and girls cross country, and girls swimming & diving. Based on CIAC decision, there will be no competitive football played this season. HPS is considering allowing conditioning and skills training for football.
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.
Additionally, HPS has partnered with UConn School of Social Work to bring 19 social work students into the schools to provide risk assessment and counseling, either virtually or in-person. These interns have been trained to work with youth and to use trauma-informed, culturally relevant practices.
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.