When first cases of covid-19 started being reported in the state, Beecher Road School administrators prepared for some school closures. On March 11 they published a letter to parents saying they may send students home with supplemental work. A day later, the Quinnipiac Health Department ordered schools closed.
“Things were moving very, very quickly,” said School Supt. Robert Gilbert. Then individual districts said they were closing, even before state officials ordered schools them to close. The landscape changed once the state decided to waive the requirement for 180 school days.
“We sent students home [on March 13] with two weeks of supplemental work,” Gilbert said. Teachers used those two weeks to plan for distance learning. “This is a huge shift.”
Teachers already had laptops assigned to them, which allow them to communicate with the kids. Students in grades 2 to 6 also had iPads assigned to them, however up until this point those devices were not take-home. Kindergarten and first grade students can use other devices at home.
On Monday, March 30, the school launched its Distance Learning Plan. The goal, according to a letter from Principal Lisa Sherman, is to keep students “academically motivated” and to review content and learn new concepts. Even so, she acknowledged that distance learning is not a substitute for the richness of in-class teaching that provides the opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate, confer, engage and learn together.
The schedules include basic academic skills, but also time for specials, such as PE, art, music and Spanish. Suggested time blocks are half-hour for the younger students, 45 minutes for the older students. The best part of the new schedule, possibly, is that the academic work does not start until 9:30 a.m. Either way, students can make their own schedule, as long as they complete assignments and check in with their teacher during the assigned time.
At this point, the custodians can take care of things they would not normally get to, Gilbert said. They are also deep-cleaning the classrooms in anticipation of the return of students.
School nurses are on call, but working from home. Parents are expected to call the attendance hotline at 203-389-2195 to track absences and illnesses.
Administrators and secretaries are at their offices on a staggered schedule, and working partially from home.
Gilbert said the Board of Education, in conjunction with the other BOWA towns, decided to stick to the school calendar and take the April vacation off. According to the State Department of Education, schools are closed until April 20, but the expectation is that the closure will be extended, possibly even to the end of the school year.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent