School board discusses latest plan

MILFORD – The Milford School Board held a meeting on Sept. 21, with discussions that included the reopening of schools, a budget update and non-discrimination/equal opportunity and sexual harassment policies.

There were no public comments.

Board member Ron Carvell noted that the reopening of Milford schools was a smooth process considering the difficulties and strategies that the district was facing under the pandemic.

“The schools opened very well,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of feedback from people that the schools are operating at a good pace. I want to congratulate the superintendent and the leadership teams in all the buildings. I hear from some of the students that the teachers are knocking it out of the park and the kids are happy and loving Zoom.”

Board chair Mike Hannon echoed that sentiment, adding that although there were a couple of busing-related hiccups, that “kids are just happy to be back in school. Great job.”

Milford school district superintendent Dr. Jessica Huizenga spoke about the progress of the Milford schools and the plan to unveil the new model for school attendance which would begin in October.

“I got to visit all the schools today and want to reiterate your comments and Mr. Carvell’s comments,” she said. “The teachers are just doing an extraordinary job. I stopped in a Jacques during the morning announcements, and they were live streaming morning announcements with two students out to the entire school.”

That didn’t just include students in the building, but also students at home and fully-remote students.

“It was wonderful,” she continued. “As I’ve said numerous times, you would never believe a year ago that this would be how we’d be doing school. It’s a real testament to the teachers, the principals and all the staff.”

The district will be completing Phase 2 of the reopening plan on Sept. 25. In that phase, students began the school experience either on-campus, a hybrid or fully remote. The two-and-a-half-week time period was designed so that teachers, students and families would be allowed the opportunity to meet one another, establish rapport and relationships and evaluate a host of basic needs.

“Now, next week we’ll be entering Phase 3,” Huizenga explained. “In Phase 3, we begin local assessments, really determining what impact COVID-19 has had on student achievement.”

Huizenga also said that on Oct. 19 the board and district would be reassessing the models that are currently being used. The superintendent met with Fire Chief Ken Flaherty, buildings and grounds director Bill Cooper, Fire Capt. Jason Smedick and assistant superintendent Christi Michaud.

“Our plan now is to send out a survey similar to academic choice forms to all families at the beginning of October,” Huizenga said, “to gauge whether or not, and when we are to go back fully, depending on circumstances and how the data is looking.”

That survey would determine what number of families would like a full return, and what number would remain remote if the school elected to go back to a full return of students physically in schools.

“There are a lot of logistical things that we have to take into consideration,” Huizenga said. “Going fully back is not something that can be done overnight- just like going into a hybrid model took a couple of months of preparation.”

Huizenga going back to a full-time, in school attendance for all students would require determining the district’s ability to maintain social distancing protocols for all students and examining the number of students back in buildings across the district.

“Those are just a couple of things that have to be taken into consideration,” she emphasized. “I know there are a lot of people clamoring for a full return. I implore everyone’s patience and understanding that we are going to begin the process, but a lot will be based on ensuring that we can do that in a strong way.”