Kobza: Amid school closings, plans for distance learning well underway

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MONROE, Conn. — Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza sent a message to parents and staff today assuring them plans for distance learning are already underway in anticipation of extended school closings due to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order closing all schools through March 26 and a letter from Monroe parents urging the district to apply for a distance learning waiver was circulating on Facebook.

“I am sure the anticipated return to school of April 1st will be revisited as that date approaches and the situation continues to evolve,” Kobza wrote Monday. “Even before the governor issued his executive order, we had been working under the assumption that we were facing an extended closure.”

“As such, we had already begun preparing a distance learning plan to provide meaningful learning opportunities for all students during this emergency,” he continued. “More information regarding this plan will be sent out later this week.”

“Monroe’s strength lies in the powerful relationships that exist between school and home,” Kobza’s message closed. “At no time will these relationships be more important than in the coming weeks. It is absolutely necessary that we keep the lines of communication between school and home open to provide the best opportunities for our students. More information will follow in the coming days. We will get through this together!”

The Facebook letter

Erin Morey, Alessandra Santorelli and Cindy Dachenhausen circulated the letter on Facebook, while asking people if they wanted their names to be added before it was sent to the Board of Education on Monday.

The letter was addressed to Kobza, as well as the school board.

“We trust that the best interests of our children are always at the forefront of all decisions being made and we are grateful for your efforts,” they wrote. “However, in the emergency meeting held by the Board of Education on Thursday, March 12, it was clearly stated that the Monroe BOE was not planning to apply for a distance learning waiver.”

“We strongly urge the Board of Education and the Acting Superintendent to reconsider this decision and work with the educators and administrators of the Monroe School District to create a Distance Learning Plan to support an application for a Distance Learning Waiver due to COVID-19,” they wrote. “We are aware that many local districts have already submitted and received initial approval for their waivers, and several others are awaiting a response from the State Department of Education.”

The parents said they understand the “very valid concerns” stated in Thursday’s meeting over ensuring every student has a computer, wifi and equal access to an education.

“It is clear that each of these other districts must have the same challenges, and yet have already found solutions, moved forward, and successfully received approvals,” the parents wrote.

If the district does not apply for the waiver the parents had two concerns:

  • Missing the opportunity to limit the number of extra days added to the school calendar, requiring students and staff to be in school through June 30 and Memorial Day in non-air-conditioned classrooms.
  • And, more importantly, students not meeting the educational requirements of the district due to an extended closure of weeks or even months.

Morey, Santorelli and Dachenhausen closed, “each and every day that goes by at this point without a waiver in place is a day that is lost. We greatly appreciate your time and consideration of this request.”

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