Clinton Schools Await State Guidance on Masks, Request Local Feedback on Spending

Clinton schools are looking for public feedback on its reopening plan for the fall and how to use $1.7 million of federal dollars the town is expected to receive under the American Rescue Plan Act. Every school district in Connecticut must create a “safe return to in-person instruction” plan to access federal funding.

The town’s current plan is to drop the remote learning option, but continue with masks and social distancing, in accordance with current state guidelines. 

At a Board of Education meeting on Monday, superintendent of schools Maryann O’Donnell said that the plan is still dependent on state guidance. O’Donnell said that Clinton school officials will continue to monitor the situation and update policies in August before the fall term begins, but that for now, decisions on masking remained with the state. 

“We’re all hopeful we can ditch the masks. We all want to,” she said. “Right now I think it’s too soon for us to take one stance or another.” 

But O’Donnell said that she was not prepared to drop mask requirements if the trade-off was more exposures resulting in more quarantines. 

“I know that parents have legit concerns, but it is a very strong mitigation strategy,” O’Donnell said. 

Board member Kim Russo, who is also a teacher, said that masks have become “almost normal now,” and that sometimes children have to be reminded to remove their masks when they forget they have them on. 

O’Donnell said students in Clinton had done extremely well with the mask wearing, and that the district was not planning on offering remote learning next year. She estimated that about five percent of students were still learning remotely, most at the high-school level.

According to the town’s reopening plan, the district will continue cleaning bathrooms multiple times daily, disinfecting surfaces and replacing air filters in schools frequently. 

Summer enrichment, mental health clinics, HVAC updates

Clinton schools are also asking the community for feedback on its proposed uses of federal funding, including summer programs, mental health, and HVAC upgrades. 

O’Donnell said she had received about 33 responses from community members on how the funds should be used. She said that learning acceleration and social emotional strategies came out as the two top public priorities for the funds. 

Plans for the summer and fall include both accelerated learning and after-school enrichment activities. Assistant Superintendent Marco Famiglietti said the district was offering a summer learning program in July for students who received tiered intervention or additional academic and english language support. 

“The goal is to provide a summer experience during which students can gain confidence in their learning and help prepare them for a return to school in the fall,” Famiglietti told CT Examiner via email. 

Famiglietti said at the board meeting that they had more than 60 students who were interested in the program.

As part of the summer program, local students will spend the morning at Joel Elementary School participating in STEM-based, math and literacy activities. In the afternoon, they will go to the Valley-Shore YMCA in Westbrook. Transportation, breakfast and lunch are all free. Famiglietti said the last day to sign up was yesterday.

Famiglietti and O’Donnell said the biggest challenge would be finding enough teachers and staff for the program. If they don’t have enough staff, Famiglietti said the district may have to stagger the weeks students attend. 

The district also plans to offer increased availability of counselors, social workers and school psychologists, social-emotional learning for elementary school students, and in-school counseling through a partnership with the Wheeler Clinic.  

O’Donnell also said the district would use $13,190 from the federal funds to contract with Colliers to get an assessment on the HVAC systems at Joel and Eliot Elementary Schools. 

There will be an opportunity for public comment on the plans at the Board of Education meeting on June 21 at 7 p.m. 

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