Ridgefield students grades 6-12 could soon return to full in-person learning

Ridgefield Public Schools students in grades 6-12 may return to classrooms for full, in-person learning after spring break, according to Superintendent Dr. Susie Da Silva. Pictured are two masked citizens of the COVID era taking a stroll outside Scotts Ridge Middle School last year.

Ridgefield Public Schools students in grades 6-12 may return to classrooms for full, in-person learning after spring break, according to Superintendent Dr. Susie Da Silva. Pictured are two masked citizens of the COVID era taking a stroll outside Scotts Ridge Middle School last year.

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield students in grades 6-12 may return to classrooms for full, in-person learning after spring break, according to school Superintendent Susie Da Silva. The middle and high schools have been following a hybrid learning model since September.

The plan was developed based on local data surrounding COVID-19 cases, which last month hit double digits in a single day. School officials meet weekly with local health experts to get briefed on the numbers, and at the time the district was planning a full return for grades 6-12, “local data was continuing to go down,” Da Silva said.

The decision is also based on the fact that roughly 95 percent of the district’s K-12 faculty is vaccinated, Da Silva said, and that children 16 and older are now eligible to get their shots. The superintendent added that as the weather warms up, middle and high school teachers will be able to utilize outdoor spaces for learning and open windows to improve ventilation in classrooms.

But the most important variable, Da Silva said, is the fact that the district’s elementary-aged students have attended classes in person since September, giving school officials the information to “best gauge” what in-school transmission looks like.

“We know our schools are safe places to be. There’s always a little bit of risk and reward … but there is no doubt that the physical in-school experience is what kids need to be a part of,” she said. “The predictability right now is that we’ll return. … It all boils down to in-school transmission.”

Ridgefield families should expect to receive a finalized decision on the matter next Wednesday. If the district grants a full in-person return for grades 6-12, students would report to their respective school buildings on April 19, following spring break. Da Silva said any students who will be traveling that week will be asked to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to class.

Parents will have the autonomy to decide whether their child will report to school or continue learning remotely in the event of a full in-person return. Da Silva said parents must notify their child’s principal of their decision within 72 hours of the announcement.

“While there’s a lot of flexibility” with the hybrid schedule, she said, “it’s challenging for our educators who are trying to plan.”

The superintendent added that bringing students back into the classroom “just makes sense.”