Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Genevieve Reilly
FAIRFIELD — Just days away from the first day of school, the Fairfield School district released an update on reopening — tweaking details in the ever-changing plans.
According to a Wednesday memo from Superintendent of Schools Mike Cummings, no requests to change a student’s learning model will be accepted until 9 a.m. Sept. 10 in order to stabilize enrollment, transportation and staffing and maintain safety for students.
He also said staffing changes announced last Friday brought concern from parents.
“First, please understand that any changes are a result of the numbers of students who have opted for remote learning, as well as accommodating staff needs,” Cummings said. “Next, I want to reassure you that we hear you and are responding. We will continue to make changes as school begins and throughout the year, as circumstances change.”
Cummings said that staff had to be moved around to accommodate the number of students that opted for virtual learning and staff that decided to work from home.
More than 1,000 students have selected the Remote Learning Academy option: 516 K-5 students, 258 middle schoolers and 253 in high school, he said.
At the same time, he said, more than 200 staff members have requested to work from home.
“The confluence of these two processes has required a change in our approach, even as we finalize schedules and staffing,” Cummings said.
Elizabeth Vienneau, the parent of a Warde High School student, said the original staffing would have resulted in high school students in the remote learning academy getting very little face time with teachers. She said several parents with pre-existing conditions posted on social media that they were considering moving into an apartment for the school year so their children could do the hybrid program.
The biggest change Cummings announced on Wednesday may have addressed those concerns. In addition to teachers having virtual office hours, Cummings said students in the remote learning academy now have the option to join hybrid classes on one or both days they occur. RLA students also have to attend virtual class on Wednesdays, when all middle and high school students are working from home.
“I feel like the distance learners are being treated equally now,” Vienneau said, after Cummings announced the change. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
While the change was a practical response to community input, Cummings said, the district continues to have concerns about its technical capacity to deliver and the instructional soundness of the model.
“Our high school students, as our most independent learners, have the best chance of making this succeed and we will be watching this closely and making adjustments as we go,” he said.
Cummings said the district will continue to provide teachers professional learning opportunities to support putting the blended learning strategies in place. He said a variety of strategies will be used to support hybrid students on the days they learn remotely as well as RLA students.
“We are looking forward to welcoming our students back on Tuesday, September 8th,” Cummings said. “As promised, our initial focus at all grade-level and in all learning models will be on building relationships and the social emotional well-being of the children in our care.
“We will continue working every day on improving instruction and looking out for the health and safety of our students and staff,” he said. “Let’s get started.”
Editor’s note: The photo caption that originally ran with the story did not make clear that the photo was taken in 2019.