Superintendent: Ridgefield families, teachers navigating back-to-school challenges

Superintendent Susie Da Silva

Superintendent Susie Da Silva

Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — This unprecedented back-to-school September is off to a decent start, considering all of the challenges, Ridgefield School Superintendent Susie Da Silva said.

“For every obstacle that we’ve had, teachers have figured out a way to navigate it,” Da Silva said.

“I think our faculty is just happy to have the children back,” she said. “Even with all the pieces we’re navigating, they feel good to have children back.”

While people are sharing what works, and learning from each other, there isn’t a deep trove of well-researched models to rely on, as there traditionally is in education.

“Even though we’re leaning into each other, it’s not like we’re leaning onto best practices, because no one has ever experienced this, at least not in our lifetime — masks, live-streaming, kids coming in and out.

“I think overall things are going well in Ridgefleld — overall,” Da Silva said. “I think the challenge, without a doubt, is you have a group of students on a computer, and you have a group of students in class.”

This is especially challenging with the younger children in kindergarten through second grade.

“They’re young,” Da Silva said. “And therefore, their ability to immediately engage and navigate mute buttons and not being silly — all the normal things — is just another piece that our teachers are working through.”\

The school district’s plan is to have kindergarten through eighth-grade students continue on the hybrid model for the first month and then try to go back to having classes five days week — although families would have the option of keeping their children in distance learning.

Da Silva said the district plans to return to full-time in-person classes on Sept. 29.

“Right now we’re surveying families,” she said. “...We gave parents until this coming Monday.”

When administrators have an idea of how many students will be coming back, they can begin planning for how it is going to work.

“Buildings are different,” she said. “In some schools, it’s a little trickier to get to the social distancing guidelines made by the CDC.”

The distance learning aspect can demand more participation from parents.

But Da Silvia said there has been “positive overall parental feedback.”

“Of course, we have some parents that might be having more challenges than others,” she added. “But overall the feedback has been positive and I think that’s because of the teachers.

“There’s a high level of trust and care in the students,” she said. “We’re fortunate in that regard. It’s a direct result of their hard work — and the administration as well, and facilities. There are a lot of players.”

Da Silvia also pointed out the need to remain vigilant, using the football rally in Hartford attended by a student from Meriden who later tested positive for COVD-19 as an example.

“People need to be careful. They need to pay attention,” she said. “It all matters now, and the ripple effect is really significant. We need to think about every decision we make.”