Return to Learn Update: Remote Learning Option, Operational Decision Meter, and more

Return to Learn Update: Remote Learning Option, Operational Decision Meter, and more

Return to Learn Update:
Remote Learning Option, Operational Decision Meter, Learning Models,
Additional Safety Measures, and More

August 7, 2020

On Thursday, July 30, we announced that the school year will begin on September 8 and published our Return to Learn and Accelerate Plan. This plan will allow us to adjust quickly as public health conditions change, and as we receive feedback from our community. We remain committed to resuming teaching and learning with safety, equity, science, and the needs of our stakeholders informing our thinking and decisions.

Family Questionnaire:

On July 22 we began collecting responses from families to determine the exact number of students that would be returning to school for in-person learning and how many students would be continuing with online learning. As of Monday August 3, we had received over 12,000 responses from across the district with 42% choosing to return in-person and 58% choosing to continue with online learning. 

Distance Learning and the HPS Virtual Academy:

The Connecticut Department of Education required districts to submit three plans in preparation for the fall: one for in-person learning, one for hybrid in-person/distance learning, and one for fully remote learning (options A,B, and C on the recent Learning Preference family survey). However, the state guidance changed and now allows more flexibility. Considering the feedback from families about learning preferences, and the financial and staffing challenges of having two distinct remote learning options, there will no longer be a standalone “Virtual Academy”. All students participating in distance learning from home will be taught by certified teachers from their school. The format will be mostly synchronous and include live video instruction with the teacher. 

Operational Decision Meter:

Following new guidance from the State of Connecticut, we have added specific health metrics to our Operational Decision Meter. These metrics, provided by the state, will help us decide 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 7 day average of daily new cases per 100,000 people in Hartford County. As previously mentioned, all families and students will have the option to opt out of in-person instruction at any time, no matter what mode the district is operating in.

Please see the revised Operational Decision Meter below, which includes the new External Health Conditions Metrics. As of August 5, Hartford Public Schools is operating in the YELLOW status column as state data currently shows a 7 day average of 3.1 daily new cases per 100,000 people in Hartford County. 

Learning Models:

The revised Operational Decision Meter also highlights another update to the learning models by grade in the YELLOW and ORANGE columns, which is based on the increased flexibility from the State of Connecticut and feedback from our family survey. In status YELLOW, grades PreK-9 will attend fully in-person and grades 10-12 will operate in the hybrid model. If we reach status ORANGE, PreK-9 will shift to hybrid and grades 10-12 will shift to fully remote. 

Staggered Start to the School Year (Week One for Students is Sept 8 – Sept 11):

To allow for a smoother transition to the start of the school year and to support students, families and staff with understanding the new safety measures and plans, we have added three additional staff professional learning days beginning on August 26, and changed the first day of school to September 8. The revised 2020-21 School Calendar is here.  The first week of school will entail a staggered progression for any in-person learning. Specific details about the staggered start are outlined below:

Tuesday, Sept 8 Wednesday, Sept 9 Thursday, Sept 10 Friday, Sept 11
In-person learning only:

  • PreK-Grade 2
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 9 
In-person learning only:

  • Grades 3-5
  • Grades 7-8
  • Grades 10-12 (Group A)
In-person learning only:

  • PreK-Grade 8
  • Grade 10-12 (Group B)
In-person learning only:

  • PreK-Grade 9

Health & Safety:

  • 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 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
  • Face shields and masks will be provided for all teachers and staff
  • New! A Contact Tracing Nurse: A position has been created and will be staffed by a dedicated certified nurse to conduct contact tracing for all COVID-19 cases
  • New! Staff Self-Screening Technology: We are implementing an internet-based solution for all staff to self-screen for COVID-19 related symptoms and comply with district policies
  • Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings while in school (Per state guidance, PreK students are encouraged to wear masks but they are not required).

As external health conditions change, we will continue to communicate information to families, staff, and the community by phone, email, text, social media, newsletters, town halls, and on our website at www.hartfordschools.org. Please continue to share your feedback, concerns, and ideas via the Welcome Center at 860-695-8400 or via email at Support@hartfordschools.zendesk.com

The year ahead will undoubtedly be challenging for us all. We are committed to continuing to collaborate with you to provide the best teaching and learning possible to all of our beautiful and capable students in a safe and healthy environment.

Thank you for your partnership and support.                                                                                   

Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Ed.D
Superintendent
Hartford Public Schools 

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.
External Health Metrics < 1  new case per 100,000 population in Hartford County (7 day average) 1 – 10 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (7 day average) 10 to < 25 new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (7 day average) 25+ new cases per 100,000 population in Hartford County (7 day average)
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: Hybrid
    (Group A on Mon/Tue, Group B on Thur/Fri, Remote for All on Wed)
  • Grades 10 – 12:
    Fully remote
  • Grades PreK – 9:
    Fully remote
  • Grades 10 – 12:
    Fully remote

*All families and students will have the option to opt out of in-person instruction at any time, no matter what model the district is operating in.

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.