Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue told the Board of Education at its meeting on March 6 that no visitors or media will be welcome at planned school walkouts at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School on March 14. The walkouts are scheduled following a national movement for students to protest gun violence. The Newtown walkouts will be held one month after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Dr Rodrigue said Newtown’s theme will be “school safety.”
The March 6 meeting was Dr Rodrigue’s first board meeting since being appointed to be the district’s new superintendent of schools, which will be effective March 19.
Dr Rodrigue said the district’s leadership team has been working with student leaders to schedule the walkout. The walkout is planned to allow staff and students to voice their thoughts on school safety.
At the kindergarten to sixth grade level, there will be no change to the school day that day. Building principals at NMS and NHS, Dr Rodrigue said, will send out more detailed school plans to staff and parents ahead of the day.
“We will not be welcoming any visitors or any media on our campuses at this time to ensure our students’ safety and to allow what we feel will be and can be a respectful expression in an orderly, quiet, and meaningful way,” said Dr Rodrigue.
Board of Education member Dan Delia asked about parental concern on having students participate in the walkouts, and Dr Rodrigue said parent wishes will be respected.
Mr Delia also asked if the walkout ties into the curriculum. Civics lessons, Dr Rodrigue said, are taught at the middle school and high school level. School safety, she added, is a current issue that applies to students directly.
“When we talk about being able to take a position, take a stance, [that] is directly related to what they are learning in their social studies classrooms and all classrooms,” said Dr Rodrigue. “We have done it in a way that will be orderly.”
The event is “more about taking a position if they so choose,” Dr Rodrigue shared, adding that students at the high school level will have the choice to study instead.
“I think it is really important for us to allow our students at the secondary level that voice and that choice,” Dr Rodrigue said. “I think that is hopefully what we are teaching our students.”
NHS Auditorium Ready For Spring Musical
Dr Rodrigue also told the school board that Director of Visual and Performing Arts Michelle Hiscavich, First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal, Public Building & Site Commission Chair Bob Mitchell, and members of the NHS auditorium renovation project construction management firm Newfield Construction Inc met earlier on Tuesday at the high school to review the final punch list items for the auditorium.
“It is looking great at the high school auditorium currently… I know that everyone is preparing, and I know it is ready to go for the March 22 opening,” said Dr Rodrigue. A production of Les Miserables, School Edition will be presented March 22-25.
A dedication ceremony for the auditorium has been scheduled for April 2, according to Dr Rodrigue.
Also at the meeting, the school board approved a two-word revision to its Policy 5112 on Ages of Attendance. Board Voice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites said the policy change was being made for consistency and legal compliance.
The revision alters the policy to say the Board of Education “shall provide education for all persons 5 years of age and older, having attained age 5 on or before the first day of January of any school year…” The policy had previously stated the child had to be 5 years old before January 1. Board member Andrew Clure pointed out at the meeting, the revision “adds a day” to determining a student’s readiness for school.
Board Chair Michelle Embree Ku also said the school district does listen and work with parents to further determine a child’s readiness, explaining the policy is a guideline.