Schools adjust to shifting demands

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Though facing unprecedented times, the Southington Public School system is coming together as a team to continue educating Southington’s students from home amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials are unsure when students will be able to return to school. Administrators are preparing for the possibility that schools could remain closed for the remainder of the school year. For now, students will be “distance-learning.”

“We’re taking this one piece at a time. Everything is new in terms of what we’re trying to do for the kids,” said Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan. “We’re focusing on getting schoolwork out to them, creating a frame work, providing support and figuring out what all of our roles are. It’s really all hands on deck.”

Teachers are turning to online programs like Google Classroom and Canvas Digital Learning Platform that allow them to stay connected to students and deliver school work, lessons, grading, support and more. Hundreds of Google Chromebooks have been issued to Southington students who otherwise did not have an application to connect with their classrooms.

“Right now, the goal is to get students used to working like this. It’s like the first day of school all over again,” said Connellan. “But, as we progress, we will adjust and improve.”

As far as assisting children with special education needs, Connellan said the district is working to provide as much outreach as possible.

“In some areas, we will need to provide compensatory services. There’s only so much we can do remotely,” he said, “but we are doing the best we can to get our students everything they need to be successful.”

Of course, school administration hope that the pandemic passes and students are able to get back to in-school learning, Connellan said that students’ and staff members’ health and safety come first.

“This is a huge health issue—there are far worse things happening than schools not re-opening,” said Connellan. “We want to keep things in perspective. If we cannot re-open, we will continue with distance-learning. We will get better over time.”

Come the beginning of the next school year, assuming schools will be in session in the fall, Connellan said teachers will be “meeting students where they are.” Administration is looking into options for summer programs that will help students stay on track with their grade levels and assure they are prepared to move up.

While students adjust to a completely new routine, parents are doing the same. The superintendent acknowledged the stressors families are facing as this global pandemic continues to flip day-to-day life upside down.

“The most important thing is to take care of physical and mental health first. The academics will come,” said Connellan. “Parents are undergoing a great deal of stress right now, and it’s important to deal with those emotions and not have that transfer to children by accident.”

SPS administration continue to stay connected with several networks all providing regular updates to information regarding education and the virus. They continue communications with the state’s department of education along with networks of superintendents in school districts across Connecticut. Locally, Connellan works closely with the town manager and the Plainville Southington Health District on an ongoing basis.

“All of this is helpful,” he said. “We are using every resource available to us in order to get through this.”

To learn more about coronavirus and to stay up to date on current information, visit CDC.org and ct.org/coronavirus.