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EASTCONN Builds Plan for Reopening Schools

This spring, in the midst of COVID-19 closures and the exponential rise of virtual learning, EASTCONN leaders began discussing how best to end the school year for students and staff, while simultaneously planning for their return in the fall. 

EASTCONN’s Leading & Learning group joined the agency’s K-12 Student Services and Special Education divisions to consider a number of specific areas, including essential standards; effective delivery of virtual learning; meeting staff and students’ social-emotional needs; and closing education gaps to ensure equity. 

“We examined what worked and what didn’t, and asked which virtual tools were most effective, which teaching strategies worked best, and what generated the greatest student engagement,” said Diane Dugas, who is facilitating the group discussions. She directs EASTCONN’s Leading & Learning and K-12 Student Services divisions.

“We relied heavily on students’ and teachers’ voices, and examined vital questions like, ‘What did we learn?’ and ‘How can we do better?’”

Meeting regularly on Zoom, the group used student engagement data, anecdotal reports and teacher observations, as well as student, staff and family feedback, to create end-of-year/start-of-year plans. 

Dugas said that personalization emerged as a recurring theme. 

“Now, more than ever, personalization is critical to our successfully meeting the social-emotional and learning needs of our students, especially as we consider the isolation caused by social distancing, home quarantines and online learning,” Dugas said. “We must determine which are the most effective virtual strategies for engagement, discourse and critical thinking.”

 According to Dugas, there has been a lot of trial and error in the new, rapidly changing world of learning and working from home.

“It’s our work now to figure it out, and find the best way forward, not only for our students and their families, but for our staff.” 

EASTCONN’s Leading & Learning group will implement its reopening plan in the agency’s two magnet high schools, Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) and Quinebaug Middle College (QMC), and its alternative high school, LEAP.

“EASTCONN is also creating a regional cohort to work on essential standards guided by input from the Regional Staff Development Council. We’re also putting together a calendar of professional learning offerings for districts that address multiple entry points, depending on a district’s specific needs,” Dugas said. “Districts will need to reimagine school in the age of COVID-19 and virtual learning.” 

Dugas said that she and members of the reopening-schools group were optimistic as they looked to the fall and the future, in spite of the fact that no one is certain about how students’ return to school will unfold this fall. 

“While we won’t return to a pre-COVID-19 status quo,” she said, “the growth of online learning has provided us with an opportunity to move forward with personalized, competency-based learning as we transform learning and reengage our students.” 

To learn more about EASTCONN’s school reentry planning, contact Diane Dugas at ddugas@eastconn.org.