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State releases complete breakdown of back-to-school plan

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    HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) — State leaders released a more detailed back-to-school plan before students head back to the classroom this fall.

Officials called it the “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together,” which is a comprehensive plan that will help guide districts when reopening schools for the next academic year.

The guidance included:

Students wearing face coverings on the school bus.
One-way traffic in school hallways.
In-classroom lunches
Front-facing desks
The plan came just days after the announcement made last Thursday, which detailed what districts will need to do in order to have in-person classes in the fall, as long as public health data continues to support it.

When it comes to operations, the plan states that classroom layouts will maximize social distancing between workstations, with 6 feet of space when feasible. Space between the teacher and students should also be maximized to reduce the risk of increased droplets during instruction.

Floor markings will be installed to illustrate physical distance, and classrooms will have access to washing stations.

Districts will adopt policies requiring the use of face coverings for all students and staff when they are inside the building, with certain exceptions like trouble breathing.

Ultimately how this rolls out will be up to each specific district, but the mask mandate isn’t optional. Only those with medical conditions or disabilities where they would need help in taking it off, don’t need to wear one.

The governor says the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced these ideas.

“How far apart the desks are is secondary to wearing the masks, and cohorting, which is sort of a key parameter that Miguel (Cardona) put into our plan as well. I was pleased that the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced a lot of what we’re trying to explain as we work with teachers, parents and students,” Lamont said on Monday.

Buildings will also be inspected to ensure they are properly ventilated.

Schools should also limit face-to-face encounters by designing foot-traffic patterns, like one-way hallways and staircases, and by designating entrance-only and exit-only doors.

During recess, on Face the State, it was learned there could be more outside recess periods and during those periods, students are expected to only have recess with those in their class with the equipment being disinfected after each use.

When it comes time for lunch, it’s going to depend on the district, because some cafeterias may be used as classrooms. The state wants to ensure that whatever is being rolled out is done with social distancing in mind, so lunch could potentially be held in the classrooms of each grade.

Sports and theater programs could be impacted, as gyms and auditoriums could be used for classroom space.

The commissioner of the Department of Education said the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) is working with the state to develop a plan.

The plan also discusses guidance when it comes to school buses, saying back-up masks will be provided to students if they do not have face coverings when boarding. Sanitizing and cleaning will be increased, and passengers will not be allowed to change seats during the route.

There is a section in the plan for parents who may temporarily choose to not participate in the return to schools. Leaders said there will be temporary support options for students who continue remote learning from home.

Starting June 30, the state’s Dept. of Education will launch the CT Learning Hub, which will be a place for “universal access to curated high quality high impact online learning content for math, English language arts, science, social studies, the arts, physical education and more anytime, anywhere.”

It’ll be a free and interactive webpage to support online and off-line learning.

State leaders said the guidance and considerations outlined in the plan were grounded in six guiding principles:

1. Safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff

2. Allowing all students the opportunity to return into the classrooms full time starting in the fall

3. Monitoring the school populations and, when necessary, potentially cancelling classes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread

4. Emphasizing equity, access, and support to the students and communities who are emerging from this historic disruption

5. Fostering strong two-way communication with partners such as families, educators and staff

6. Factoring into decisions about reopening the challenges to the physical safety and social-emotional well-being of our students when they are not in school.

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