Isaac Yu, Contributing Photographer
Mayor Justin Elicker joined New Haven Public Schools staff on Thursday for a briefing about King/Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School’s COVID-19 testing capacity ahead of the city’s highly anticipated virtual and in-person hybrid school reopening on Nov. 9.
At the beginning of August, the Board of Education announced that the NHPS school year would begin on a remote only basis for the first 10 weeks of instruction. On Nov. 9, that 10-week period is scheduled to end and schools will reopen on a virtual and in-person hybrid basis. But not everyone’s heading back to the classroom: a NHPS-administered survey found that 44 percent of students have opted into continued remote-only schooling on Nov. 9, accounting for 8,800 out of roughly 20,000 students.
In preparation for school reopening, the BOE, NHPS administrators and Elicker have mobilized resources to ensure that schools have adequate air ventilation systems, staffing, social distancing signage and testing capacity.
“We’re looking to open up our schools to families that are excited to come back for in-person learning,” Elicker said at Thursday’s event. “I’ve been quite impressed with how teachers and administrators are making it work during these challenging times.”
NHPS students and administrators, as well as the mayor, were tested for COVID-19 at King/Robinson’s new parking lot testing site, run by Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center. The press conference surrounding the testing was designed to encourage community members to get tested themselves by demonstrating the center’s safety and efficiency.
Elicker, whose 5-year-old daughter will return to in-person classes, reassured community members that the parking lot testing location is a reflection of the city’s commitment to a safe school reopening. Elicker stressed that other sites will open up at different schools across the city over the next several weeks. He said he hoped that families, children, teachers and other school employees will take advantage of testing opportunities before Nov. 9.
NHPS Superintendent Iline Tracey also told community members that the shift to a hybrid model will be safe.
Tracey acknowledged that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in New Haven and Connecticut is a concern for NHPS administrators. According to data collected by the New York Times, Connecticut has seen a 66 percent increase in new cases over the past 14 days compared to the previous 14 days.
Tracey emphasized that the district will continue to monitor cases and make decisions to close schools should the need arise.
“I have promised that I would not open schools unless they are safe,” Tracey said. “We have an awesome group of teachers, administrators and staff — based on the work we’ve been doing with the health department, I think we’re prepared.”
Tracey said she believed NHPS schools were prepared to open in a hybrid model on Nov. 9. She encouraged families to regularly visit the city’s website to find their nearest testing location, which cycles between schools each week.
The parking lot test sites are an extension of Cornell Scott-Hill’s existing services to NHPS. According to Assistant Director of School-Based Health Centers Sara Keiling, these sites, along with the organization’s eight existing in-school centers, will ensure continued access to COVID-19 testing and health care for both in-person and virtual students.
MarcAnthony Solli ’91, who has taught in NHPS for 21 years and leads the school district’s high school literacy department, expressed excitement about the shift to hybrid programming.
“I feel that [the hybrid model] is necessary and appropriate because there are challenges to the remote model,” Solli told the News. “You need that tactile, visceral, emotional connection with students that is lacking now.”
The Board of Education unanimously voted to elect Tracey as Superintendent of NHPS with a three-year contract this past June.
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