State Department of Education Releases Comprehensive Plan for Returning to In-School, Full-Time Instruction for the 2020-21 Academic Year
The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) today released “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together”, a comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for districts as they plan to reopen schools at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year. This document follows the announcement last week of a framework to allow all students – in all school districts statewide – the opportunity to have access to in-school, full-time instruction in the fall as long as public health data continues to support this model.
In addition to Connecticut’s successful COVID-19 containment efforts, this operating model was selected based on feedback from a wide range of educational stakeholders and public health officials in support of the effectiveness of in-school instruction. The benefits include structure in place to ensure safety protocols, providing for students’ social-emotional well-being, and mitigating any barriers to accessing equitable opportunities that increased during the pandemic. This model will be supported with more intensive mitigation strategies and specific monitoring, containment, and class cancellation plans.
“Healthy schools translate to healthy communities, and the safety of our students, educators and school personnel remains the primary focus as we implement this plan. Balancing the reopening of schools will require us to be flexible and prepare to adjust as needed,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. “After consulting extensively with public health officials and our school communities, the evidence is clear that having students physically present in school greatly improves outcomes and our ability to provide for their academic and non-academic needs. When COVID-19 first hit, we were all called on to rise to the challenge and, after witnessing the herculean efforts of teachers, school personnel and families over the past two months, I am confident we will come together stronger than ever to lead the evolution of education in Connecticut. ‘Adapt, Advance, Achieve’ is the first step.”
“Adapt, Advance, Achieve” was created with input from students, teachers, parents, principals, superintendents and other educational stakeholders, including consideration of a broad range of feedback via public survey. Public health officials and state and national data and guidance were closely consulted throughout the development of the plan which included a review of nationally and globally published school reopening models for the 2020-21 school year. Ultimately, CSDE determined that there is strong evidence suggesting PK-12 priorities, such as access to opportunities for equitable education, is best achieved with in-person schooling for all ages. The in-school model also allows for the provision of a wide range of supports for students and is fundamental to their development, safety, and social-emotional well-being. Recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the effectiveness of having students physically present in school given that they have consistent access to “academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits”.
The guidance and considerations outlined in “Adapt, Advance, Achieve” are grounded in six guiding principles:
- Safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff;
- Allowing all students the opportunity to return into the classrooms full time starting in the fall;
- Monitoring the school populations and, when necessary, potentially cancelling classes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread;
- Emphasizing equity, access, and support to the students and communities who are emerging from this historic disruption;
- Fostering strong two-way communication with partners such as families, educators and staff; and
- 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.
While districts retain discretion in implementing approaches to reopening given unique local considerations, these guiding principles require all districts to develop their plans with a certain level of regional consistency. Understanding that health developments may influence decisions to transition to a different instructional model, districts are asked to be flexible in balancing their planning with contingency plans to provide robust, blended learning or remote learning for all grades in the event that a school, district, or region has to cancel or limit in-person classes due to health precautions.
As this plan is implemented, CSDE will continue working collaboratively with public health and educational stakeholders in order to provide support and guidance to assist districts with planning at the local level and providing education to all students in a way that is accessible, equitable and meaningful.