Indoor masking, no virtual option: Inside Ridgefield’s return to school plan

Photo of Peter Yankowski

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield students will have to continue wearing masks while inside school buildings or buses next year, district officials announced Thursday as part of the schools’ safe return plan, which was shared in draft form.

Classrooms will allow three feet of social distancing between students , and up to six feet where possible, according to the draft copy of the plan. It notes, however, that “three feet distance may not be feasible in all environments/classrooms.” But unlike the past school year, students will not be divided up into cohorts.

The district will return fully to in-person learning, according to the plan, with no virtual or hybrid model offered to families.

“Those students who have medical complications whose doctors believe are unable to physically attend school may consult with their school administration and nurse regarding learning program options,” the draft plan reads.

If case trajectories change, a hybrid model “may be revisited.”

The district will restore 40 minutes cut from the beginning and end of the school day to allow student arrivals and dismissals to be staggered.

In a letter to Ridgefield Public Schools families and staff Thursday, Superintendent Susie Da Silva said the draft is “only the beginning” of the district’s plans for the school year. She said creating the plan is a requirement for districts that want to apply for funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Schools must publish the document for public feedback, she wrote, and said the plan is based on requirements under the Connecticut Department of Education and Department of Public Health.

Ridgefield’s plan comes amid growing pushback to mask-wearing in schools, and more than a month after the state eliminated its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people. A judge in Hartford upheld the school mask requirement in a ruling last month, in a lawsuit filed by the CT Freedom Alliance and parents of school children challenging the rule, the Associated Press reported.

So far, state health officials have not said whether students will be required to wear masks indoors in the fall.

The Department of Education eased mask requirements outdoors during recess and other activities last month as Connecticut eased other restrictions, but said mask requirements indoors would continue for everyone.

Ridgefield students will still be required to wash their hands regularly, and day and evening cleaning of school buildings will continue.

The district will continue to conduct contact tracing for cases of COVID-19 and publish case data on its tracker website. But students and staff who are vaccinated will no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who is infected.

The schools will not conduct testing, “but will communicate with community members opportunities locally for testing,” according to the plan.

The district will survey parents regarding the plan over the summer, and families can share feedback via email at