I hope this communication finds you and your loved ones well.
We have reached the end of the 19-20 school year. It is safe to say none of us have ever experienced a year like it before and I believe it is safe to say that none of us ever wants to experience a year like it again. Whether that is possible or not we will know more in the coming weeks and months. We will continue to update everyone through the summer as more guidance is received from the state and our plans develop in response to that guidance. We do understand that the community is anxious to have students return to school. We are anxious as well. We will only return if we are given approval by state and town health officials. We are also aware that even when that approval is given there are parents and staff who have concerns with returning. We are looking to the state to provide guidance on this so that we can assist you as well. We want to develop plans that address the needs of all learners, their families, and our staff.
Planning for the 20-21 School Year
Our plan for the summer is to prepare for every possible contingency of 20-21. We have to develop plans to bus students back and forth to school, welcome them in each day while assessing their health, and determine how to address students or staff who become ill or report contact with someone who has become ill. We need to determine how to schedule classes to ensure proper social distancing. We must develop cleaning protocols for during the day and after the day is over. We need to address how to hold athletic events, chorus and band classes, and lunch. This is only a partial list; we must do many things this summer.
I know you are anxious for more information. We have shared with you what is known to this point and when more information is provided you will receive that immediately. We wait for guidance from the state first. We will use that information to plan for the needs of our students, their families, and our staff.
The Re-Entry Planning committee has begun this work and will continue to address these issues, and many more. As plans become clearer we will share those with you. We will provide updates through email and on the district website.
In July teachers from each level will begin planning adjustments to our distance learning instructional models. We will take the feedback from students, parents, and staff, and review and possibly revise schedules and instructional plans. We know we can develop and implement improvements in distance learning. We will be sharing these with you as the plans are readied. We will also be working to prioritize curriculum expectations in all grades and content areas to ensure systemic consistency. Perhaps we may never need the products of this instructional and curriculum work, but we need to be ready. Distance learning, whether it is five days a week, or part of a hybrid model of in-class and at-home instruction, is likely to be part of our 20-21 school year.
We do not require distance learning to make these changes happen. We can physically be together in school and allow technology to provide opportunities outside the physical walls. Blending in-person and online learning broadens choice. How do we move forward to make this happen? Those are the questions we will begin to address together.
At the risk of getting too far ahead of ourselves, we not only plan for the necessary logistical and instructional changes created by COVID 19, we plan with the hope of capturing the changes to public education we wish to keep after the pandemic is ended. There will be some point in each of our futures where we will be compelled to share our stories of this year with our grandchildren. Our children, our current students, will feel compelled to share with their children and grandchildren. And our audiences will likely not care too much to hear these stories of the old days. I have learned over the years that I was the rare kid who could sit for hours listening to oral histories of the Great Depression (draw your own conclusions on how exciting my television habits are). As a result of the past three months, the strengths and concerns of American public education have become clearer. It is difficult to predict what public education will look like in 10 years never mind 30 years. We should hope that our present will be exceeded by our grandchildren’s reality. I hope that public education seizes this moment to identify what is good about schools prior to March 13, and the possibilities that emerged after March 13. It is my intent that the current public school model which has been in place since the post-Civil War becomes more inclusive and recognizes the different needs of students. We want to use what we have learned these past three months to build a school system that promotes student self-discovery and celebrates learning for learning itself. We have the opportunity in Fairfield to make that happen and to harness what has begun to emerge from distance learning and make it stronger.
Before saying goodbye to the 19-20 school year, one final round of thank yous –
- To our food service staff who kept students fed through the past three months. They never wavered from the front lines and their work was essential to maintaining the health of our students.
- To our IT staff who answered every question, call for support, and request for repairs with speed, kindness, and skill. Without their steady presence and resourcefulness, we would not have been able to keep distance learning going forward.
- To our library/media and tech integration teachers who built and provided supportive professional learning for all staff, answered every request for additional support, and maintained constant focus on practical solutions to support the teaching needs of staff and the learning needs of students and families.
- To our maintenance staff who kept buildings clean throughout this period and supported staff and students in the past few weeks as materials were returned, and personal items picked up.
- To our secretaries, clerks, and accounting staff who kept the district running under very difficult circumstances.
- To our Paraprofessionals and Ed Trainers who provided care and support for so many students, families, and staff.
- To our town’s elected officials and department heads whose support throughout the year, from environmental and physical health concerns through graduation planning, have exemplified partnership and support. Special thanks to the members of the Emergency Operations Committee, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, Brian Carey in his multiple roles, and Sands Cleary and Jill Mitchell of the Health Department.
- To our Board of Education members who asked critical questions, sought answers, and helped to maintain the district’s forward momentum despite multiple potential roadblocks. Student and staff well-being were their constant focus.
- To our parents who provided ideas, feedback, encouragement, patience, and support. It was not always easy to hear what you had to say but it was always important, and you helped to make these last few months better. We will use your input as we work this summer.
- To our administrators, who not only managed these last few months, but who led with courage and conviction. None of them had a playbook, or past experiences to draw upon and yet they exceeded all expectations.
- To our teachers who reinvented themselves and their instruction in a weekend and kept improving through three long months. They rooted their actions in what was best for kids, as they always do, and with that as their guide the moved forward to deliver learning with new skills and enduring passion for their profession.
- To our students who responded to their world changes with commitment and care. I truly hope we gave you nothing but the best.
Personally, I want to thank everyone who emailed, called, or tweeted me with their thoughts and ideas over the year. We could not make every idea a reality, but every idea mattered and became part of the planning and actions going forward. I feel incredibly fortunate to work in this community and for the students of the Fairfield Public Schools.
We are a very tired group of people. We deserve rest and some time away so that we can gather strength and commitment for the days ahead. I wish for you a summer of good health, peace, and well-being. I will be in touch throughout the summer to keep you informed of developments and plans.
Take care of yourselves, take care of each other,
Superintendent of Schools
Fairfield Public Schools