On Tuesday, Newtown students will have a remote learning day. December 14th marks 9 years since 20 first-graders and six educators were killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook School.
Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue asked the Board of Ed on Tuesday to approve using a remote learning day in the wake of recent school threats across Connecticut. The Board recently approved the use of two of the district’s 182 days to be used as remote learning days in lieu of snow days.
Rodrigue says anonymous threats add to the level of anxiety, and the goal this year is to minimize the level of stress on students, parents, and staff given the current climate. Rodrigue said she would have requested the use of a remote learning day for December 14 anyway. Three years ago, Sandy Hook School was evacuated due to a threatening call to the main office on 12/14. Rodrigue hopes a remote learning day will relieve some anxiety and stress.
On Monday, a piece of paper referencing 12/14 was found at Newtown High School though it was not deemed a credible threat.
The school district has always opted to have students in school on the anniversary to keep students engaged, but having to evacuate the building does create and retraumatize staff, students, and families. Rodrigue told the Board of Ed that she thinks the likelihood of something happening on “that day” is “far greater.
Newtown plans to use a “compacted” schedule, which will begin an hour later and dismiss an hour earlier. Details for the remote learning day, including when devices will be sent home, is being shared by respective building principals.
When in school on 12/14, only age-appropriate messaging has been included in remembrance of the day. At the lower levels, they have never discussed the anniversary with younger students and have left that up to parents. The message to younger students is that the remote date will help them practice their skills as digital learners for the first time this year. This will prepare them if the district uses another remote day for a weather-related closure. For secondary students, the messaging is that the move to remote learning was done to avoid any disruption or distraction to education on 12/14. 7th through 12th graders will begin with a moment of silence. Teachers are prepared to have private conversations with students and parents if any questions or dialogue occur in remote classrooms regarding 12/14.