Large numbers of student quarantines in districts across Connecticut may be undermining the state’s plans for a normal, fully in-person school year.
In the past six weeks, 132 students in the Region 4 schools have been sent home to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days due to potential exposure to COVID-19, according to superintendent Brian White.
The district is not alone with high numbers of quarantined students.
Lyme-Old Lyme has had 41 students sent home to quarantine since classes began, Guilford has reported a total of 110 student quarantines and according to the State Department of Education it’s a widespread problem. This means that these students are, once again, learning from home — a method of instruction that has been shown to negatively impact student performance.
“We are aware of this issue and it’s a statewide thing,” said Eric Scoville, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “We are currently looking at developing some guidance to make sure it is being handled the right way and the same way across the state.”
Currently, it is up to each district how remote learning is conducted. Some districts, like East Lyme and Lyme-Old Lyme are providing worksheets and other hands-on materials for children in pre-kindergarten through 5thgrade while middle and high school students “zoom in” to class.
“Based on our experiences last year it is clear that “Zooming” into PK- 5 classrooms is not the most effective method of instruction for children of this age range. Therefore, at the elementary level we will continue to provide work for families to pick up when their child is unable to attend school due to illness and or quarantine,” according to a reopening Q&A sent to parents in Lyme-Old Lyme at the beginning of the school year.
According to Guilford Superintendent Paul Freeman, students who have to quarantine are able to log into their classes via Zoom. This is the option for students at all grade levels.
“We feel this provides the greatest consistency and the least disruption for any students so impacted,” Freeman wrote in an email.
Even with most teachers and students being accustomed to distance learning after more than 18 months of remote and hybrid learning, 10 to 14 days at home will disrupt and impact learning. According to some parents in Region 4 at the Deep River Elementary School, students learning remotely are unable to ask for one-on-one video sessions for their children. According to the Region 4 administration it is up to the individual teacher discretion how to communicate with students.
“Preventing disruption and learning loss is of utmost importance to the Connecticut State Department of Education, many of our districts are using multiple learning modalities including synchronous and asynchronous educating,” Scoville said. “We are working with DPH to address any issues related to quarantining.”
For now, however, quarantines will remain a standard part of public school education for unvaccinated students.
According to the Department of Public Health, students who are vaccinated do not need to be quarantined if exposed to the virus unless they are exhibiting symptoms. Currently, however, the COVID-19 vaccine is only approved for students 12 and up, meaning that quarantines are required for elementary-age students and unvaccinated middle and high school students in close contact with a COVID-19 positive case.
Despite being aware of the issue, Scoville said the state Department of Education does not track data on the number of students quarantined. However, attendance numbers, including the number of students learning remotely in September have been submitted to the department and will be aggregated and available to the public by the end of October.
Editor’s note: CT Examiner reported that, “According to the Region 4 administration it is up to the individual teacher discretion how to communicate with students,” when they are quarantined due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
We want to clarify that per Region 4 administration policy, all quarantined students are performing “asynchronous work.” There is no option to attend classes via Google meets or Zoom. However, teachers are able to coordinate one on one meetings with students if that is deemed appropriate.
“Our administration has worked collaboratively with teachers to develop an approach for supporting students this year who may miss school due to a quarantine. Our teachers are taking steps to support each individual learner in all grade levels and content areas as appropriate,” said Brian White, superintendent of schools in Region 4