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Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Julie Luby, walked the New Fairfield Board of Education through the current planning that’s begun for the 2020-2021 academic year. With an unpredictable virus and uncertain timing for a vaccine, the school is bracing for “something that looks different than we’ve ever done before,” she said. Though definitive steps haven’t been released, Luby explained that the school has “written a plan to make a plan,” a three-pronged road map focusing on operations, teaching and learning, and social-emotional well-being. The map will help the district to transition “from emergency remote teaching…moving to a blended model for next year.”

She says that much of the operations portion is tough to determine at this point, given that the school will adhere to state and federal guidelines that have not been issued yet. However, administrators are “running down the road with the things we do control” and working in groups to discuss best plans for teaching and social-emotional aspects. Strategic planning is happening at the administrative level, but soon a steering committee and focus groups will begin that will include a wide range of constituents, such as staff, school nurses, and parents. Luby stressed that, at the core, the district “want[s] to do this differently, but we still want to be New Fairfield.”

2020 HS Graduation Plans: New Fairfield High School Principal, Mr. James D’Amico, detailed plans for the 2020 High School  graduation, which gives the students “one last official experience at the school” and the chance to all be together for a final time in an   Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Julie Luby, walked the New Fairfield Board of Education through the current planning that’s begun for the 2020-2021 academic year. With an unpredictable virus and uncertain timing for a vaccine, the school is bracing for “something that looks different than we’ve ever done before,” she said. Though definitive steps haven’t been released, Luby explained that the school has “written a plan to make a plan,” a three-pronged road map focusing on operations, teaching and learning, and social-emotional well-being. The map will help the district to transition “from emergency remote teaching…moving to a blended model for next year.”

She says that much of the operations portion is tough to determine at this point, given that the school will adhere to state and federal guidelines that have not been issued yet. However, administrators are “running down the road with the things we do control” and working in groups to discuss best plans for teaching and social-emotional aspects. Strategic planning is happening at the administrative level, but soon a steering committee and focus groups will begin that will include a wide range of constituents, such as staff, school nurses, and parents. Luby stressed that, at the core, the district “want[s] to do this differently, but we still want to be New Fairfield.”

2020 HS Graduation Plans: New Fairfield High School Principal, Mr. James D’Amico, detailed plans for the 2020 High School  graduation, which gives the students “one last official experience at the school” and the chance to all be together for a final time in an   appropriately distanced way. On Friday, June 12, the seniors will be able to come to the high school, with staggered timing plans in place, to receive their diploma and take a photo with their parents. In the evening, there will be a drive-in graduation experience held at Squantz Pond State Park; more details will be forthcoming.

To plan for the graduation, D’Amico said “we wanted to be very sensitive to what the class wanted to do” and tried their best to balance the state health department guidelines regarding social distancing with the one thing the class wanted which was “to be together.”

Ms. Christine Baldelli, New Fairfield Middle School Principal, is planning a two-night virtual graduation on June 9 and 10, with the 8th grades split by team. To make the events especially meaningful, she is asking students or parents to submit photos, favorite memories, and more which will be used to create slideshows. The graduations will include most features of the typical 8th grade graduation, with speeches planned by Superintendent, Dr. Pat Cosentino, Baldelli, D’Amico, awards ceremonies, and more. Baldelli noted that there will also be a curbside diploma pickup on June 11 and 12; at the pickup, parents will be receiving their Holiday Hill and graduation gown checks back.

MHHS and Consolidated Step Up Plans: At Meeting House Hill School, Principal James Mandracchia described plans for a drive-through Step-Up Day on June 8. The event will be held by team, staggering the participants. The teachers will line up along the sidewalk and each student will receive gift bags and certificates.

Assistant Principal, Ms. Karen Gruetzner, explained the Consolidated School event will be quite similar to the Meeting House plans, with 2nd grade teachers lining the sidewalk and students receiving send-off goodies on June 10.

2020-2021 Budget: With a budget adopted by the town, administrators and the BOE will be looking at a total of $643,879 in cuts to the original budget, with plans to empty the capital and non-financing for next year. The town’s Board of Finance budget markup sketched out a plan in that $70K in education staffing could be saved from the BOE round 1 and 2 cuts, as previously reported on–though it is the BOE that will ultimately decide where to allocate the cuts. The education budget total for 2020-2021 is $43,709,084.

Dr. Richard Sanzo, Director of Finance and Operations, noted that the school will be receiving $200K in federal CARES Act funds. The state is planning to distribute the funds to help towns cover unexpected Covid-19 related expenses. Sanzo expects that there is a long list of potential uses for this funding, including personal protective equipment.

School Building Project Update: Sanzo explained that school officials and the town’s Permanent Building Committee have been meeting consistently with the architects to work on the school design plans. He noted that, with the pandemic, all parties are keeping flexibility in mind in terms of space use.

Subcommittee Reports: In a report on the Business Operations Resource Management Subcommittee, Mr. Ed Sbordone said that the district is on track for a possible $385K in surplus, with a breakdown of roughly $135K savings in payroll and $250K in non-payroll expenses. Sanzo will provide a more thorough budget surplus presentation at an upcoming BOE meeting.

Mr. Dominic Cipollone explained that the Curriculum Subcommittee discussed the success of the new afterschool enrichment program, with over 300 excited participants. The group hopes that more high school students will start to take part in the enrichment. Free for students, the enrichment has been funded in part by repurposing grant monies. Cipollone went on to describe a search that is ensuing for new math programs. With years of underperforming test scores, New Fairfield has math under a microscope, and recently determined that math programming options need to be investigated. Given the climate, Cipollone noted that, among many factors, programs that support distance learning are being researched.

As Parks and Recreation Committee liaison, Ms. Kimberly LaTourette explained that all summer events and programs are canceled. The town beach is possibly scheduled to open on July 1 and the town is looking into the possibility of drive-in movie nights at Squantz Pond. In addition, Parks and Recreation staff are looking into possibly offering online programs.

In her Superintendent’s Report, Cosentino noted that Sanzo has received a state-level Rising Star Award that she had nominated him for saying “it’s an honor and it’s well, well deserved.” She thanked teachers and staff for all of their work, saying there are “a lot of balls in the air and we are dropping very few.” She also said that the schools are planning for Extended School Year, with possible plans for it to be held in-house. Regarding plans for her evaluation, she said that she will give an update on goals at the next BOE meeting, after which evaluation discussions will be held over the next few meetings.

The next regular Board of Education meeting will be held on Thursday, June 4, 7pm.