Students will begin the academic year at The Sherman School in a couple of weeks, with roughly 85% opting to attend in person and the remainder of students remotely learning from home. In light of Connecticut’s low Covid-19 case counts, Superintendent Dr. Jeff Melendez says that, “Based on our unique conditions which include small class sizes, our ability to maintain social distancing of at least 6′ by restructuring our building spaces, the technological resources we have at our disposal, and our planning and delivery of robust professional development for faculty and staff, The Sherman School is able to provide a safe and educationally sound educational program.”
Class numbers at The Sherman School have always run small in comparison to other districts, but are shrinking even further this year, with the school adopting measures to keep tighter cohorts of students together. To achieve this, they have added nine additional teaching positions. The students physically in The Sherman School will be taught through a Blended Learning program, with a combination of classroom instruction and digital learning, while the students at home will be on a Remote Learning plan, with many technological options in place to communicate with teachers and peers and will be given “to-go” packs of additional activities.
For in-building students and staff there are a number of safety measures being implemented from required mask usage and physical distancing to frequent handwashing and sanitizing of spaces. The Sherman School has created wellness-checklist magnets for every family. The magnet details symptoms to watch for, protocols for potential exposure, and reminders for what technological and personal protective equipment to bring to school.
Regarding masks and personal supplies of water, which they recommend bringing one or more of to school, Melendez noted, “We are asking that families provide their child with a clean and comfortable mask(s) each day to wear in school…If a child’s mask becomes soiled, or if they run out of water, we will, of course, be prepared to supply.”
Melendez believes that these measures will allow for safe interaction among staff and students, “socialization is an important part of every human experience. We have taken this into account by ensuring that students are placed in manageable cohorts to allow for them to engage with their peers safely and meaningfully.” He adds that socialization for students who are learning remotely have also been taken into consideration, saying that the school recognizes “the need for students at home to feel engaged with their peers and vice-versa. We have invested in technologies that will allow our students in grades 4-8 to connect virtually with the rest of their classmates and teachers.”
Confident that staff are ready for the new challenges ahead, Melendez says “we have been planning and delivering professional development for our faculty since last year, through the summer, and for five full-days before the start of school in anticipation of our reopening plan.”
Like every district, The Sherman School has plans in place in the event that Covid-19 cases rise, or if there are cases among the school community. “Because I am not a medical expert, I will rely on regular status reports from the state Department of Public Health, counsel from our district’s medical advisor and consultation with our Town’s Director of Health to guide us on these decisions,” Melendez said. He went on to say “We will ultimately do whatever is in the best interests of student and staff safety. Fortunately, we have developed a plan which includes the distribution of ‘To Go Bags’ that are ready to be distributed to all students in the event that we need to transition to Remote Learning. These bags contain a personal electronic device for each student in grades K-8, equipment for students to engage in their specials such as art, music and physical education, and other classroom resources and materials to allow them to remain fully engaged.”
By Sarah Opdahl