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As East Haven students and staff reach the three-week mark of school being closed due to COVID-19 concerns, education has not come to a stop. Superintendent of Schools Erica Forti and the East Haven School District have had resources for students of all ages posted online at east-have.k12.ct.us since the closure was implemented and formal continued educational learning is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, April 1.
“Our district has made extensive efforts to explore personalized learning and to adopt curricular resources that utilize technology in ways that made things a little bit easier,” said Forti. “We have also networked with some school districts who have been piloting this format as options on snow days.”
With the continued online education officially underway as of April 1, it will continue through at least April 20 with classes to be held during the week of April vacation, April 13 to 17. There will be no class on Good Friday, April 10. If the closure continues through May, there will be no classes held on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.
Educational teams met to discuss how to best continue the students’ educational opportunities. The teams worked with the tools that the schools already had in place and that the students were familiar with, such as Google Suite for Education.
“One of the challenges that we face is ensuring that what we design is in alignment with what we know about appropriate screen time at various developmental levels,” said Forti. “We also struggle with balancing between ensuring we are providing enough to keep learning going in a productive and natural manner without trying to do too much, resulting in our students and families feeling overwhelmed.”
While planning the distance learning and a new way of connecting with students, the district’s top priority remains the “health, safety, and wellbeing of our students and families,” according to Forti. With that in mind, the district not only aims to meet educational needs but other needs as well.
Takeaway breakfast and lunch continue to be offered at Tuttle, Momauguin, and East Haven High School with pickup from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday to Friday. Guidance counselors continue to be available as well as resources for students with Individualized Education Programs. Plans are being developed for those who access other services such as counselors, social workers, school psychologists, therapists, and more.
Forti said that she and the administration have continued to be impressed by the district’s teachers as they have developed virtual learning environments, continued student relationships, and shared ideas with each other.
“Many of the teachers have reported that it is nice to connect with each other via digital meetings and the level of innovation we are seeing right now is very exciting—it is helping to see the deep level of commitment to connecting with kids and meeting their social and emotional learning needs during this difficult time,” said Forti. “Teachers are finding creative ways to foster critical thinking and student discourse using an online platform. They have responded to this unique challenge with such positivity and flexibility while doing what we know is best for our students.”
Though implementing distance learning and creating curriculum has been a focus, Forti also encourages adults in children’s lives to continue to be a stable influence as the world faces uncertain times.
“Our children may be feeling anxious and confused. They are taking cues from us as adults, and in essence, we are all are providing them with their first home school assignment: How to remain calm in a crisis,” said Forti. “We should not underestimate how much our children are counting on us as adults and the powerful impact of our verbal and nonverbal communication with them.”
While the new learning plans have been implemented and communications have been sent to parents and students, the district is still waiting on clarifications from the Connecticut State Department of Education as to how the closures will affect makeup days as well as grading, sports, social activities, and more. At this time, Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order extends school closure through at least April 20.
“We miss our students and we recognize that this is a big shift for all of us,” said Forti. “While uncomfortable, and filled with unknowns, it remains a great opportunity for all of us to explore and grow together as an educational community. We ask that you be patient with us, and yourselves, as we navigate this new and exciting time together.”
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