Trumbull schools mulls in-person classes Wednesdays

Trumbull High School. School officials are considering having students back in class for half days Wednesdays.

Trumbull High School. School officials are considering having students back in class for half days Wednesdays.

Ned Gerard / Ned Gerard

TRUMBULL — With COVID-19 seemingly declining and vaccinations of teachers beginning within days, Superintendent Martin Semmel said some students could be back in person five days a week as soon as next month.

Currently, all school buildings are closed to students on Wednesdays. Elementary students are in class four days a week, and middle school and high school students remain in split cohorts, with each group attending school in person two days each week. All students continue to attend remote classes on Wednesdays.

But that could change next month, Semmel said. The reopening committee is considering bringing students back into the buildings on Wednesdays starting with the beginning of the third trimester March 22.

“So that’s just a few weeks away,” he said. “The current plan is to bring the elementary students back in, so they’ll be five days in-person. At the high school and the middle schools, we’ll have to come up with a rotation and communicate it to our parents so they know which is a Wednesday A Day or a Wednesday B Day, but the rest of the structure would remain the same.”

Students in Cohort A would probably have a few extra Wednesdays learning in person, Semmel said, in part because holidays and snow days have fallen disproportionately on Mondays. So students attending school on the Cohort A schedule — Mondays and Tuesdays in person and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays remote — have been affected more than Cohort B, which attends school remotely Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and in person Thursdays and Fridays.

With students back in the building, Semmel said, Wednesdays would remain a half day each week, he said.

“There’s overwhelming support from our teachers and administrators to keep Wednesdays as half days,” he said.

“Certainly my goal is that we should try to be as normal as possible by the end of the school year,” Semmel told the Board of Education at its Feb. 23 meeting. “The closer we get to normal by the end of the year, so many other things become possible, like graduation.”

Semmel, in a 10-minute report to the board, said he was working with state and local officials to get as many school staff members vaccinated as soon as possible.

“I’ll be working to make sure we have opportunities for our staff to sign up for the vaccine in our district and outside of our district,” he said. “Keep in mind that vaccine doses are still somewhat limited. In our town, a great group of volunteers have been working very long days trying to keep up with demand, and adding clinics could be challenging if they don’t get extra staff.”

Increased vaccinations among staff members will also help the schools increase the in-person time students have with teachers, he said.

One issue with getting back to normal, Semmel told board member Tim Gallo, is that even with students back in school, there will likely still be large numbers of students who opt for remote learning.

“I’m highly confident that the state Department of Education will not relax the rule on remote learners. That’s what’s adding to the workload on our teachers,” he said. “As long as that (remote learning) continues, it’s important to add appropriate time for our teachers. So bring the kids in for the half day, they need to have the face time with their teachers. But let them go at the half-day.”