September 18, 2020

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Reopen to All Students , ‘We are Excited About the Return of our Students’ (Neviaser)

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser. (File photo)

LYME/OLD LYME — A new school year starts Tuesday for all students resident in Lyme and Old Lyme, who have chosen to return to Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) Schools.

Administration, faculty and non-certified staff, however, returned to work last Monday, Aug. 24, to spend the following six days familiarizing themselves with all the new protocols and procedures that have been implemented in response to the COVID-19 situation.

Asked how the week of preparation had gone overall, LOL Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser wrote in an email, “It was a very busy but very successful week of training and preparing for a safe reopening of school.”

He added, “In addition to safety preparations, staff spent time adjusting curriculum and lessons to address the unanticipated instructional changes from last spring.”

Some of the changes being introduced involve mandatory mask-wearing by all students, regardless of grade — this therefore now includes Pre-Kindergarten students. Students and staff must provide their own masks, but if they arrive without a proper mask, one will be provided for use that day. The student or staff member will then be expected to return with an approved mask on the following school day.

Anyone — including members of the public, as well as parents and caregivers — who enters any of the LOL School buildings is also required to wear a mask.

In a letter explaining the Reopening Plan for LOL Schools sent out Aug. 17, Neviaser states, “Our mask guidance is based on the CDC face covering guidelines but is more stringent in that all masks must cover the nose, mouth, and chin area. Bandanas, gators, balaclavas, buffs, masks with one-way valves or vents, or any other face covering that does not meet the administration’s determination of appropriateness are prohibited.”

He also clarifies that, “All students PK-12, all staff members, and anyone who enters any of our buildings must also utilize our self-screening tool prior to arrival each day.” The self-screening tool is available on the reopening page of the LOL Schools’ website.”

There are also new procedures for school buses, use of which Neviaser has previously advised is now, “discouraged, but not prohibited,” physical distancing and cohorting.

Neviaser said in an email to LymeLine.com that the faculty and staff had responded positively throughout the week of Professional Development to all the changes, noting, “The staff is very much focused and committed to adhering to the new protocols and procedures that will allow all building occupants to remain safe.”

Parents were able to opt out of sending their children back to school but were obliged to confirm that by Aug. 21. Neviaser said in an earlier conversation that around 90 percent of students would be returning to in-school instruction. He was  enthusiastic about welcoming students back to school on Sept. 1, saying, “We are excited about the return of our students and look forward to a safe reopening on Tuesday.”

One of the most common questions being raised by parents is what happens if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19. Neviaser responds in the Reopening Plan, “… the answer is that each case will be addressed based on the details of the individual situation, contact tracing results, and the recommendation of Ledge Light Health District.”

He added in his Aug. 29 email to LymeLine.com, “We will continue to closely monitor health data and our mitigation strategies and adapt as needed to ensure a healthy and productive learning environment.”

Regarding the athletic program, which has been subject to frequent — and often frustrating — change by the Connecticut Interscholastic Conference (CIAC), Neviaser commented, “It is my hope that very soon the DPH (Department of Public Health) and the CIAC can collaborate and agree on a strategy to ensure a safe athletic experience for all of our student athletes.”

The current situation is that conditioning was permitted to begin Aug. 24, in, “Cohorts no larger than 10, through Sept. 20,” then a decision will be made Sept. 21 whether “full team practices” can commence at that time dependent on the seven-day average percentage of COVID-19 cases against certain thresholds. Games, which currently include football and volleyball, will not start before Oct. 1.

The key to success in what Neviaser describes as this “historic” year is, in his words, “flexibility.” He states in the Reopening Plan, “As the guidance we receive is constantly being updated and/or revised, we ask for your patience in allowing us to make decisions based on the best interests of our students and staff … and to adapt to new information and practices that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

 

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