Parents question use of assemblies for virus talk

Booth Hill School Principal James

Booth Hill School Principal James “Dr. Z” Zavodjancik offered his services to an experiment demonstrating how far germs fly from an uncovered sneeze or cough during a school-wide assembly Wednesday, March 11.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Parents said they are pleased students are being educated on the coronavirus, but some said they are upset with large groups of children being gathered together in one spot for the lesson.

The school district announced it was holding assemblies or advisories all this week to educate students on the coronavirus and teach them proper steps, such as social distancing and hand washing, to better prevent getting or spreading the virus.

At Booth Hill School, on March 11, students were brought into the gymnasium where school nurse supervisor Adrianna Collins presented several fun experiments to both teach and maintain children’s interest.

At least one person questioned the practice.

“A lot of parents are upset,” said a parent of an elementary school aged child who also has as compromised immune system. “With everything we have been hearing on the news and doctors, why would you gather all the kids in one room like that? I don’t get it.”

Gov. Ned Lamont, in declaring a state of emergency over the virus earlier this week, urged no gatherings of more than 100 people in any one location.

“Why take the chance,” said the parent. “It left us all scratching our heads.”

Interim Superintendent Beth Smith did not immediately return a request for comment.

Smith, who officially took over March 2, has said she is talking multiple times daily with the Naugatuck Valley Health District director and members of the district’s Health Emergency Planning Committee for updates.

The parent said that the video shown during the assembly could have been used in individual classrooms instead of creating a “potentially dangerous situation” by bringing hundreds of kids together to sit on a gym floor and talk about germs.

Shelton schools announced March 11 that all fields trips and other events scheduled for this month that would feature larger groups of people are postponed or canceled altogether. Smith also announced that schools will operate on an early dismissal March 16 so staff can prepare for handling instruction if the schools were to close for an extended period of time.

“I have decided that it is in the best interest of the health and safety of our students to communicate changes to some of our upcoming events,” said Smith, who made the announcement before attending a special assembly at Booth Hill School where students were taught about the virus and how best to mitigate its spread.

Smith said that all parent- and student-led conferences in March will be rescheduled for a later date.

“We will continue to follow the posted half-days in March that are currently on the calendar,” said Smith.

Among the events that are being postponed are the winter percussion home show and band competitions; school dances; PTO bingo nights; Saturday SATs; any cultural and international evening gatherings; Invention Convention parent viewings; Spelling Bee evening events; grandparent’s days; Shelton Showcase planning events, and all out-of-state professional learning.

Sporting events were canceled March 10 by the CIAC, and robotics competitions are also canceled.

Smith also confirmed that all in-state and out-of-state field trips are canceled as well.

“Other school events will be modified, including practicing social distancing, ending earlier than in past years and limiting attendance,” said Smith. “Additional changes to school events could be forthcoming as more information is available. I thank everyone for your understanding and flexibility as we continue to navigate whatever lies ahead.”