Cassidy Arrington, Contributing Photographer

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, members critiqued New Haven Public Schools’ remote learning plan for students in quarantine and expressed interest in opening a virtual academy. 

Under NHPS’ school reopening plan, all schools are fully reopened and students are required to wear face coverings inside school buildings. Weekly COVID-19 PCR testing is required at each school for students and staff. If a student tests positive, they are required to isolate at home, as are any of their close contacts, including fellow students, identified by a nurse or administrator.

Students that quarantine at home are required to log onto Google Classroom each day to receive and complete any classwork. As public schools are currently following a fully in-person schedule, quarantined students in K-6 work remotely on their assignments during the school day and receive 10 hours of virtual after-school instruction a week for two weeks. Quarantined Grade 7 through 12 students can utilize Khan Academy and other online platforms to supplement their classwork. 

“It’s embarrassing that we have kids who are quarantined at home, who aren’t sick,” board member Tamiko Jackson-McArthur said. “And then we tell them they have to go to school after school.”

Fellow board member Darnell Goldson shared a similar sentiment. He said that he hopes the district develops a new plan that would equalize learning for students engaged in live and virtual instruction. 

Superintendent Iline Tracey said that while the current plan is not ideal, a shortage of teachers has made it difficult to offer remote instruction for students in quarantine.

“It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s what we have to work with,” Tracey said about the district’s current plan.

Board member Larry Conaway suggested that in response to the need for remote learning, the district should focus on opening a virtual academy in the long term. He urged board subcommittees and district leaders to explore more online options for students. 

“You’re dealing with those homebound kids, those students who are quarantining, and those kids who may not want to go to school,” Conaway said about the benefits of a virtual academy. “We got to move forward, not to the 21st century, but the 22nd century.”

Board member Anthony Fiore, a student at High School in the Community, supported Conaway’s call for the district to create a virtual academy. Fiore said that students would appreciate having more options in deciding how they want to learn.

BOE member Jackson-McArthur also supported the idea of creating an online alternative for learning, and said that the Board of Education’s Governance Committee has already started to discuss the proposal. Jackson-McArthur also added that she previously asked district leaders if someone was developing NHPS’ virtual curriculum but was told no one was doing so. 

Assistant Superintendent Paul Whyte ’93 said that the State of Connecticut is ensuring that a virtual academy will be available for all high school students starting next school year. Whyte also said high school students will have synchronous and asynchronous credit recovery options available to them in the middle of the first quarter, which will help the district start a virtual academy in the future.

According to NHPS’ COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 this school year, of which 54 individuals were unvaccinated and 10 were vaccinated.

Christian Robles was a public editor, city desk editor, and education & youth services beat reporter. He graduated from Yale in 2023 with a degree in Political Science and as an education studies scholar.