Mask breaks, keeping student in cohorts and block schedules are among the strategies area schools will use to keep children safe should they return to school in the fall, still facing the coronavirus pandemic.

“The complexity of not just bringing 700 or so adults back into a work place, but also bringing another 4,200 children into that same space is really daunting,” New Canaan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during a Facebook forum hosted by Democratic state Rep. Lucy Dathan of New Canaan and Democratic state Sen. Will Haskell of Westport Thursday, July 16.

Connecticut schools are devising plans for in-person learning at the request of Gov. Ned Lamont, who has asked for them to be prepared by Friday, July 24.

Students willl be required to wear masks at school so Dathan asked about children possibly having mask breaks.

“The guidance certainly talks about being outside as an opportunity for mask breaks as long as you are being socially distant. Obviously when you are eating you have to take off your masks, so that would be considered a break,” Bethel Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christine Carver said. “We are waiting for more guidance from the Department of Public Health that would define what that is.”

“One thing we know is that our educators have to be prepared to plan that as part of their schedule,” Ridgefield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Susie Da Silva added.

“We are learning so much from our conversations with medical professionals and others, the feedback I continue to get is that wearing a mask is one of the most effective mitigation strategies, so we are focused on how to make this work,” Luizzi said.

“Our most disabled students that we thought would not wear a mask are wearing masks,” which “shows that kids are adaptable,” Carver said.

Students could also be kept in “cohorts,” or small groups, to avoid intermingling with a wider population.

Luizzi said cohorting is different for the age levels. In elementary school, it would simply be keeping the children contained within their classroom.

In most grades in middle school, 80 students would be considered a cohort.

“Those kids can mix throughout the day between their four classrooms, but not mixing with other kids,” Luizzi explained.

Block scheduling

New Canaan High School is transitioning to a block schedule, which means longer class periods. In this case there will be four periods instead of seven.

“Instead of having seven periods a day where students are in the hallways seven times and mixing,” they would reduce that to four, Luizzi explained.