Darien Board of Ed to hold emergency meeting Monday night re: eLearning and coronavirus
As Governor Ned Lamont mandated all Connecticut schools close until at March 31, the Board of Education and Darien Schools Superintendent Alan Addley will hold an “emergency meeting” Monday night. This is in light of what Addley says is the latest information from the state Commissioner of Education indicates it is likely schools “will be closed for a much longer period of time than the two weeks”
Lamont also discouraged gatherings of more than 50 people. Effective today, New Canaan has banned all dining in in restaurants. As of Sunday, the state Department of Health reported 26 cases of coronavirus, with 16 in Fairfield County. As of Saturday, the number of reported positive cases in Darien was two. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said Sunday the town would issue an updated report Monday.
The emergency Board of Ed meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., will be closed to the public to adhere to social distancing practices. Instead it will be simulcast, according to a letter sent to school parents on Sunday evening.
“The meeting will be live streamed on YouTube at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oBqHIv3mBhI and will be recorded,” the letter from Board of Ed Chairman Tara Ochman said.
The topic of the emergency meeting will be “based on the administration’s request to update us on educational plans moving forward, including potential application to the State for a waiver. This conversation will be based on the most up-to-date health information, and educational guidance given the uniqueness of this moment in our lives.”
Ochman also encouraged the public to reach out to the board.
“If you would like to make comment to the Board please email me, Tara Ochman, at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy Vice Chairman, Duke Dineen, email@example.com. These emails will be shared with the full Board and the Superintendent. If you have already emailed any comments to me directly, please know these comments have been distributed to the Board. There is no need to resubmit. You may always choose to email all members of the Board if you prefer,” she wrote.
Addley also sent out communication regarding the waiver.
“As shared with you on Friday, the Commissioner of Education’s strong recommendation was for districts not to conduct remote learning experiences in lieu of onsite schooling but rather to provide supplemental asynchronous activities,” Addley said.
However, given the update on the timing of school closing, the Darien school district’s approach has changed, Addley said.
“Given this requirement and consistent with recently released guidance from The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the District currently has not submitted a waiver to provide on line learning experiences in lieu of onsite schooling,” he said.
“In consultation with the Commissioner of Education over the weekend, it is likely that Connecticut schools will be closed for a much longer period of time than the two weeks. As such, given the exceptional nature of the circumstances, the Commissioner is also reconsidering its position on granting waivers for remote eLearning that count toward the 180 days of school. It is now likely the State Department of Education will encourage eLearning and require a district to make a good a faith effort to meet the educational needs of all its regular and special education students,” Addley wrote.
“Given these changing circumstances around school closures and the expectations for waivers and educational eLearning for all students, I will be making an administrative recommendation to the Board of Education tomorrow, Monday, March 16th at 6:30 p.m. to submit a waiver for the District’s eLearning experiences. Should a waver be granted, the District will be ready to easily transition into providing online eLearning for students that count towards the 180 days of schools. The timeline for submission and acceptance of a waiver is quick, generally 24 hours,” Addley said.
The eLearning resources can be accessed from the main page on the District website on Monday, March 16 at 8 a.m. These activities are voluntary and students are not required to participate. The activities are not intended to replace classroom instruction. The goal is to offer opportunities for students to access enrichment, practice skills, maintain learning and keep connected to school.
In a separate attachment, Addley addressed special education and other aspects of responding to the coronavirus.
“There is a Support Services Tab and Social and Emotional Support Tab on the elementary school site, there is a Specially Designed Instruction tab on the MMS site, and there is access to DPS Special Education Google Classroom Resources and Activities on the DHS site. For your reference, the following letter was sent to families from Ms. Shirley Klein, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services on Friday, March 13, 2020,” he wrote.
Students who do not have access to wi-fi or technology, please contact the Darien Public Schools at http://support.darienps.net or call at 203-656-7400.
Social distancing also continued to be addressed.
“We realize that this can be difficult for children and families, however, during this period of time, we ask that students not congregate in large or even small groups. By doing this, we are all helping mitigate the spread of the virus. During this time, it is important to try to maintain as much routine as possible for all age-levels, but most certainly for our youngest students,” Addley said.
All school facilities and athletic fields are closed to school and town organizations for athletic practices or events of any nature. In keeping with social distancing guidelines, there should be no formal or informal gatherings on the fields.
“Additionally, tutoring or athletic coaching between students and school employees should not be taking place,” Addley wrote.
For free and reduced meals, families who are eligible are encouraged to reach out to Myrese Nochomowitz ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), Darien Public Schools Director of Food Service or Alexandra Ramsetck ( email@example.com) , Director of Human Services for the Town of Darien.
Watch the emergency Board of Ed meeting live at 6:30 p.m. on YouTube at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oBqHIv3mBhI. It will also be recorded.