All Ridgefield schools return to hybrid model

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva

Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — It will be “hybrid learning” — meaning smaller groups of students will be in school buildings at different times — when classes resume in Ridgefield schools on Monday, Jan. 4.

“Reducing person density in our school buildings is a mitigation strategy to further prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Aaron Crook, the school system’s COVID-19 health and safety liaison. “... We will also be communicating additional information to RPS families and faculty about mitigation efforts before we return to hybrid learning on Jan. 4.”

While Ridgefield High School and the two middle schools had been on hybrid learning before vacation, for most of the last two months the elementary schools had been inviting a full compliment of students in to classes every day — although some families preferred “remote learning” over the internet.

So hybrid learning will be a change for the six elementary schools.

Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva said the policy shift didn’t result directly from the cluster of COVID-19 cases at Farmingville Elementary School, which reached 20 cases just before vacation.

“No,” Da Silva said, “seemed like the best transition plan after unknowns with long holiday.”

All Ridgefield Public Schools had been on remote learning the final four days before vacation — Friday, Dec. 18, and Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 21 to 23.

All the schools had also been closed Thursday, Dec. 17, due to the snowstorm.

DaSilva had said the remote learning before vacation was at least in part designed to reduce the need for students to quarantine during the holidays.

As updated Monday, Dec. 28, the COVID-19 tracker on the school system website said: “RPS has had 96 known cases of COVID-19. Over time we have placed 1,348 students and staff in quarantine after potential exposures at school, on the bus and at athletic events.”

The listing on Dec. 28 showed 21 people in “active quarantines” — all of them from Farmingville.

In a Dec. 23 communication forwarded to the school community by Da Silva, Crook discussed the length of time the Farmingville building will have been closed, when schools reopen.

“Today our administrative team met with Town of Ridgefield Health Director, Ed Briggs, and RPS Medical Advisor, Dr. James Ahern, about these cases and to continue our discussions about the recent outbreak of cases at FES,” Crook wrote.

“By Jan. 4, the FES building will have been closed for 18 days. A 14-day closure is recommended by the Connecticut Department of Public Health after an outbreak in a building.”

Weekly decisions

Plans for how different schools operate — everyone in class, hybrid learning, or everyone on remote learning — will continue to be made on a week-by-week basis, Da Silva said.

But she said school officials would try to make the decisions on Wednesdays, rather than waiting until Fridays to put out announcements about the plans for the following week.

“We realize how difficult these times are and how much adjustment is needed on the part of our faculty and staff,” Da Silva said in an email to the school community.

“We will notify families by Jan. 6 the status of the week of Jan. 11,” she said. “We will continue to make our decisions on the learning model on a weekly basis, and have made an adjustment that these decisions (unless we are unable) will be made on Wednesdays of each week.”

In the final day before vacation, Crook announced six additional COVID-19 cases among students and staff — three of them from Farmingville.

“Today we learned that a member of the Veteran’s Park Elementary School community has tested positive for COVID-19,” Crook’s Dec. 23 communication said.

“This individual was not in the VPES building during a time when they were potentially infectious to others, and no contact tracing is required.

“We also learned that two members of the Ridgefield High School community have tested positive for COVID-19,” Crook added. “These individuals were not in the RHS building during a time when they were potentially infectious to others, and no contact tracing is required.

“Further, we learned that three additional members of the Farmingville Elementary School (FES) community have tested positive for COVID-19. One of these individuals was in the FES building while potentially infectious to others on Wednesday, Dec. 16. This class has already been placed in quarantine, and no additional contact tracing is needed for this case.

“The other two positive individuals from FES were not in the building during a period of time when they were potentially infectious to others, and no contact tracing is required for those cases.”