New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Pandemic rules in place for start of school year

Masks and separation on tap, but not distance learning

- By Pam McLoughlin

Superinten­dent of Schools Vince Scarpetti said he is not encouragin­g parents to drive children to school as he did last year.

ORANGE — There won’t be a distance learning option in town schools this year, but many other aspects will look familiar to last year, including mask-wearing in school and on buses, cohorts and a minimum distance between desks.

The plan, subject to change depending on state recommenda­tions, was laid out at a recent Board of Education meeting by Superinten­dent of Schools Vince Scarpetti and Michael Gray, director of business operations, who also gave a facility report.

School starts Aug. 30 in town.

In addition to Scarpetti updating daily guidelines and preparatio­n for opening, Gray announced that all students are eligible in the 2021-22 school year to continue to get free hot lunch under a USDA national waiver program for which school officials applied.

Gray encouraged parents to take advantage of the free hot lunch , as it helps the school cafeterias.

In promoting the concept, Gray said if a student doesn’t like a lunch there will be “more exciting” alternativ­es that kids like, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, rather than items such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or cheese sandwiches.

“Hopefully more people will take advantage of those lunches — they are good, they are delicious and it does help our cafeteria, as well,” Gray said.

Scarpetti said distance learning will be available to any student required to quarantine, but there is no routine option.

Decisions about who gets quarantine­d and doesn’t in the case of possible exposure to COVID-19 will be made on a case-by-case basis, he said.

While masks will be worn in school and on the bus, per Gov. Ned Lamont’s order in effect until at least Sept. 30, students in Orange will be allowed without masks outdoors at physical education and recess, Scarpetti said.

There are factors that will be considered if students were to be exposed to an unmasked student who later tests positive, including the amount of exposure time, he said.

He said the recommenda­tion is three feet of distance between students when possible, and school desks are that far apart or more.

If someone in a cohort tests positive, the others in the cohort don’t have to quarantine if they are asymptomat­ic, he said.

In keeping with the recommenda­tion, cohorts will continue, but instead of teachers going to different classes, students will travel to them, Scarpetti said.

In answer to a Board of Education member’s question, Scarpetti said he is not encouragin­g parents to drive their children to school as he did last year.

But there will remain strict rules on the bus — masks, assigned seats to aid in contact tracing, and filling back to front, exiting front to back, Scarpetti said. Gray said the bus drivers will have masks if a child forgets to bring one.

He said bus drivers also will be required to wear masks and buses will be cleaned between runs to different schools, as many are used to service the middle and high schools.

Gray told the board the ventilatio­n system filters in the schools have been changed for the start of the school year and will continue to be replaced every three months. The filters can be hard to get these days, but the school system has plenty, as they stocked up, he said.

Gray said although they remain vigilant about cleaning and disinfecti­ng the schools, a lot has been learned about the virus since the beginning, including that it’s not generally spread through surfaces.

Scarpetti noted Orange decided not to participat­e a health directive in which parents would volunteer to get their children tested regularly so that asymptomat­ic cases could be caught and stem the spread.

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