Sunday, November 28, 2021

Local News

Large Groups of Student Quarantines Cause Concern in Region 4

With several COVID-19 cases affecting the Regional 4 School District just weeks into the 2021–’22 school year, several parents have expressd concern that their children, who cannot attend school based on being a close contact of a case, could be losing ground academically.

Robert Ferretti, vice chair of the Deep River Board of Education (BOE), recently raised the concerns of parents in Deep River with Region 4 administrators at an Oct. 7 joint BOE meeting.

“Deep River had nearly 20 percent, 30 percent of the school out at one point recently,” said Ferretti. “I think there is a concern about lack of instruction [and] lack of engagement with those students while they’re in quarantine for 5, 10 days at a time sometimes.”

Unlike last year, the district, following state guidelines, is operating fully in person.

A parent from Deep River, David Richards, emailed the Courier, saying, “If this was April, or last year, they’d have gone remote to stem the tide of infections. Not this year, though. The only difference is teachers are vaccinated. But kids still aren’t. That doesn’t seem fair to the kids.”

Annie Lewis, another Deep River parent, said in a phone interview that she believes more can be done to support students who are in quarantine, and that synchronous learning through a Google Meet with a teacher could offer that extra support.

“Mostly, what I’d like are Google Meets for kids in quarantine,” said Lewis. “So, I think kids in quarantine should have access to the classroom through…a digital platform like Google Meets. We did this last year. I don’t understand why, only for kids who are quarantined, we can’t do this.”

Lewis said that she has attempted to reach administrators, who provide different information than that which she is getting from teachers in the district about their ability to use an online platform for synchronous teaching and learning during a quarantine.

“So, there is a big disconnect between what teachers are being told and what the administration is telling parents and none of it is being done in the name of what is best for children,” said Lewis. “I’m very disappointed.”

A remote teaching and learning option is not required to be offered in the Region 4 district this year, which aligns with guidance for the 2021–’22 school year from the state Department of Education, according to Superintendent of Schools Brian White.

On Oct. 7, White discussed how quarantine protocols are different this year and that quarantine periods have been reduced, with students at the upper grade levels in the district not required to quarantine due to inoculation against the virus.

“Although this is certainly going to be a challenge for the next month or so, we do anticipate that as vaccines do become available for elementary age students and more students receive those vaccines that the impact of these quarantines will be less and less over the year,” said White.

Ferretti asked whether any of the federal grant funds could be used this school year to help students who had been quarantined based on exposure to a case.

“In order to not have them fall back, I’m wondering if some of these funds can be used now in the present to engage with those students throughout the day, provide more instruction when they are home and quarantined,” said Ferretti. “You know, just wanted to raise that as a concern that I think many of the parents have had students out on quarantine are raising.”

In response, White confirmed that there had been approximately 70 students recently affected at the elementary school in Deep River due to COVID-19 exposure and that he and his staff are working to understand the situation, “sort of under the new teaching and learning requirements” of this school year.

White also asked Assistant Superintendent Sarah Brzozowy to elaborate at the meeting on what is being done to help students who have been quarantined this school year. Brzozowy pointed to a few examples of teachers posting instructional materials online to Google Classroom.

She said that she’s going to be “circling back with all of the [building] principals to see, you know, in the event of student quarantines, how can we do a better job absent that remote option this year, to make sure that students are not falling behind due to a lack of ongoing instruction.”

Although the state is not requiring that school districts offer a remote option for students, it does encourage school districts to be prepared to offer remote learning for different scenarios related to COVID-19, such as when a group of students is in quarantine, according to the state’s Guidance on The Future of Remote Learning in Connecticut document (find that link here).


Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at e.reinhart@shorepublishing.com.

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