Important Update 03.09.21

Dear Parents, Staff, and Students of the Enfield Public Schools,

Let me begin by apologizing for the delay in sending this letter. Some of you may have heard by now, but on February 23, I made an announcement at our Board of Education meeting that all students in grades Pre-K through 5 would be eligible to return to in-person learning four days a week beginning Monday, March 22. Additionally, any student at JFK or Enfield High School with an IEP or 504 or who is identified as an English learner would have the option of returning to in-person learning four days a week as well. I also reminded everyone that asynchronous Wednesdays would remain in effect for the remainder of this school year based on the significant number of remote learners we will have through June. I was hopeful anyone who wished to return four days a week at JFK and Enfield High would be able to do so; however, the size of these two schools and the mitigation strategies we still need to enforce will not allow us to accommodate every student beginning March 22. I did share, though, that if the vaccination process went as we were led to believe, when we return from April break on April 19, all our staff would be fully vaccinated, and we could reopen all our schools four days a week for the remainder of the school year.

This brings me to why I held back on sending this communication. Our vaccine rollout had a few speed bumps based on the number of doses we were told to expect and the number we actually received. The good news is we have partnered with Trinity Health, and when it appeared we would get zero doses the first week of March, Trinity stepped up and provided us with enough to vaccinate a large number of staff members. Last Wednesday, we held our first vaccination clinic at the Enfield Annex, and with the help of Trinity Health and our Enfield Public Schools nurses, we were able to vaccinate any staff member in the following schools who wished to receive one: Stowe Early Learning Center, Eagle Academy, Enfield Transition Learning Academy, Henry Barnard School, Hazardville Memorial School, and Enfield Street School. Because of several no shows, we were also able to get staff members from Prudence Crandall School to the Annex at the last minute to receive their vaccination. My intention with our vaccine rollout is to administer shots by building. I chose this format because our staff is receiving the Pfizer vaccine, and I have been advised to plan for possible side effects with the second dose. By administering by building, I believe it is easier on families and staff to adjust in the event a remote day is called for staff to either receive their second dose or manage potential side effects. I held off on sending this communication because I did not want to inform students and families their school would return four days a week on March 22, only to then be told this week would be cut short because of the second administration of the vaccine.

I have mentioned all along that when we are able to administer vaccines to staff, it was possible I would have to call one or more remote days to accommodate the vaccination process. I am grateful we were in a position to hold the first clinic on a remote Wednesday, so there was no disruption to the school schedule. Now that we have completed our first clinic, I can share our schedule moving forward. Pre-K through Grade 5 students will return to in-person learning for three days the week of March 22. I do have to call a district-wide, asynchronous remote day on Thursday, March 25, as staff members who received their first dose last week already have an appointment for their second dose on Wednesday, March 24. This remote day is needed because we have been advised that side effects are most prevalent in the first twenty-four hours after the second injection. I also need to share that many staff members were able to secure their own appointments for the vaccine, which is a positive for the district because there will be less appointments for us to make; however, because so many people from all our buildings were able to get appointments last week, I’m afraid I cannot limit this remote day to just the buildings we covered at our clinic. JFK and EHS students who are permitted to return four days a week will also attend three days during this week. All other JFK and EHS students will follow their regular, hybrid schedules.

I realize the first week back “full time” is not what some were hoping for, but this is positive news overall. The sooner our staff members become fully vaccinated, the requirement to quarantine if exposed decreases. Essentially, once our staff is protected, we can reopen more fully and not have to worry about closing due to staffing issues. Continuing with positive news, we are planning to hold our second clinic this Wednesday, March 10 for any staff member we could not vaccinate last week. This will complete every EPS staff member who wished to receive the vaccination.  Those receiving first doses this Wednesday will be scheduled for their second dose on March 31. This means a remote day for Thursday, April 1 will also be necessary. I am sorry for the late notice on these changes, but this vaccination process changes hourly. Since we are completing the first dose for the remainder of our staff this week, the week of March 29 will be similar to the week of March 22. Pre-K through 5 students and any JFK and EHS students permitted to attend in-person learning four days a week will do so on Monday, March 29 and Tuesday, March 30. Wednesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 1 will be district-wide, asynchronous remote days, and on Friday, April 2, the district is closed for Good Friday. JFK and EHS students who are still in the hybrid model will follow their normal, hybrid schedule.

The week of April 5, any student who is eligible to attend in-person learning four days a week will be allowed to do so. Additionally, parents still have the option to choose remote learning for their children for the remainder of this school year. The hybrid schedule will no longer be an option once students are eligible to return to four days a week of in-person instruction. Because of scheduling, parents will have the option of either returning their children to four days of in-person learning or remote learning; again, the hybrid option will no longer be available. When we return from April break on Monday, April 19, all students, Pre-K through 12, will have the option of returning to four days a week of in-person learning, if they choose. Our hybrid schedule will no longer exist at that point.

I need to once again thank you for your patience over this past year. I realize this is yet again another slight change in plans. As a parent myself, I realize your entire family revolves around your child’s schedule, and any disruption has far-reaching ramifications. You have all been asked to be flexible for far too long, and although I am asking you to be flexible for just a little while longer, I hope this is it. I am hoping there will not be any additional changes to this plan, but given the last year, I will not be surprised if there are.

I also hope all this information does not overshadow the underlying theme of this letter; that is, this is the best news I have been able to share with you in over a year. As crazy as this year has been, to finally give our students some semblance of a normal school schedule is something I was not sure would be a reality this school year. The fact that we can start to look “normal” again in just a few weeks is a testament to our staff, who have given everything they have to make this happen. It is also a reflection on all our families, who remained patient when you should not have had to – or really did not want to. More importantly, this is possible because of our kids, many of whom did not realize last March what was happening to their world or the impact it would have on their lives, yet they persevered and did the best they could. I know it has not been easy on them, and our commitment to getting our students through this is stronger today than it has ever been. I am not naïve to think that life will now return to completely normal for any of us or that this pandemic is over; however, being able to get our kids back into our schools more frequently gives me hope that better days are ahead.

Thank you - and stay well, 

Christopher J. Drezek

Superintendent of Schools