COVID-19 Updates - Rocky Hill Public Schools

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November 25, 2020
 
Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,
 
We are writing to you today with several updates. The Board of Education met last evening and took action on a number of important items. First, please note that the school calendar has been amended to provide our teachers with much needed additional planning time. As everyone understands, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has placed a significant burden on teachers as they provide daily instruction to both in-person and remote learners. To that end, beginning on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, the school district will follow the early release schedule on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Teachers will use the time on those afternoons to plan for upcoming lessons and to assess students’ work. The revised school calendar is attached to this message and is posted on the district’s website. 
 
Additionally, the Board took action on the implementation of a COVID-19 “dashboard” that is now accessible on the district’s website and through the following link:  RHPS COVID-19 Dashboard
 
The dashboard provides information on the number of positive cases and the number of individuals in quarantine. This information will address numbers for both students and staff, and will be displayed on a school-by-school basis. (Please note that not every positive COVID-19 case requires contact tracing within the school setting or notifications resulting in quarantine. This is because the aggregate number of positive cases includes students who have been remote learners throughout the school year, and students and staff who contracted the virus outside of the school setting and remained outside of the school setting until the contagious period concluded.)
 
In order to deal with the myriad issues associated with COVID-19 (including the management of the dashboard), the Board has promoted the director of special education, Ms. Amy Stevenson, to the position of interim assistant superintendent for personnel and student services. The special education supervisor, Ms. Jolene Piscetello, will assume some of Ms. Stevenson’s responsibilities and the assistant principal at West Hill School, Ms. Louise Adamow, has been assigned some of the duties and tasks normally delegated strictly to the special education administrators. Again, these changes were made to provide more direct assistance and oversight regarding the massive volume of issues stemming from the pandemic. We understand that this may have an impact on the timeliness of responses requiring administrative attention at West Hill School, and also with respect to special education throughout the district; however, the Board made these staffing adjustments in direct response to the pandemic, and with a full understanding that the operating budget is fixed and additional personnel cannot be hired at this time. 
 
Yesterday, school district administration participated in a conference call with state public health officials. Some good news was shared with respect to the fact that the disease transmission rate within the public school setting (PreK-12) remains extremely low. State officials attribute the low transmission rate to the mitigation strategies in place, e.g., regular handwashing, the use of masks, social distancing. However, as we saw with our secondary schools last week, a small number of positive cases can create a situation where entire schools must transition to remote learning. Hence, we must again emphasize the following:
  • Do not send a child to school if any other member of the household is sick (or is symptomatic for COVID-19 and is getting tested), even if the child feels well. 
  • Do not send a child to school if the child has been tested for COVID-19 (for any reason) and is awaiting test results. Following a negative test result, please contact the school nurse before sending the child to school. 
  • Do not send a child to school if the child is sick or is exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection (new and persistent cough, fever, chills, sore throat, loss of taste or sense of smell, muscle or body aches, and/or gastrointestinal issues).
  • If you are in doubt about any of these expectations, please consult with the school nurse before sending your child to school. Our outstanding nursing staff is happy to assist you, and will continue to provide parents and guardians with expert medical advice in the interests of protecting everyone’s health.  
With the holiday season upon us, we encourage you to avoid traveling to other states and countries, if possible. By working together and making wise decisions, we can assist in protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, we can protect our students and staff, and we can make every effort to keep our schools open for in-person learning. If you absolutely must travel outside of Connecticut, please refer to the following link:  CT Travel Advisory LIst. The school district will continue to enforce Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order regarding out-of-state and international travel. 
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and restful Thanksgiving weekend.
 
Respectfully, 
 
Brian A. Dillon, Chairman, Rocky Hill Board of Education
 
Mark Zito, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools