HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group met on Monday to discuss questions surrounding reopening schools after the pandemic shutdowns.
Last week, Governor Lamont announced school buildings will remain closed through the end of the school year, so the committee decided to meet and discuss what it may look like when school is back in session.
The key phrase from the roundtable was “be flexible.” All agreed things could change and that everyone needs to be able to pivot. They also agreed that the schools need to be reopened with caution.
“We are going to continue to see transmission of this virus through the summer, and it is quite likely we will see a second wave of this in the fall,” said State Epidemiologist, Dr. Matt Cartter.
The education reopen committee is asking for more testing and social distancing from the time kids board the bus to the last bell.
“The last thing we want is to reopen and have schools serve as centers for actually spreading the virus,” said Don Williams, Connecticut Education Association.
It’s also clear to these education leaders that kids are falling behind, especially those with disabilities. Online learning they said is not a long term solution.
“What keeps us up at night is being able to reach and engage every child,” said Fran Rabinowicz, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
“Students face too many obstacles like parents who can’t assist, can’t keep up for various reasons and don’t have the skills or knowledge to utilize online technology,” added Jan Hochadel, American Federation of Teachers.
Summer camps are set to start on June 29 in groups of 30 or less. A waiver is needed for larger programs. There are health concerns, but experts said it’s better than kids being home alone.
“Home without supervision, without some of the structure and routines their brains rely on,” said Commissioner Beth Bye, Office of Early Childhood.
Leaders agreed that academics should come before sports.
“We first must focus on a return school and successful resocialization to our curriculum and education,” said Glenn Lungarini, Executive Director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC). “After that time, then we can consider how we get back to sports.”
The bottom line, education officials continue to learn more about COVID-19 every day.
“We want to make sure above all, we are protecting your children, we are protecting our staff, we are protecting communities,” said Dr. Miguel Cardona, Connecticut Education Commissioner.
The reopen education group said if any of the plans are executed carelessly, “there is a greater likelihood schools would have to be closed down again [in the fall].”
The Education Re-Open Committee roundtable also discussed higher education Monday. The President of UConn talked about the public health challenge of bringing students back to a residential campus.
“It needs to be a state and national priority if we are going to get the state running again it starts with those residential campuses and that’s going to be the biggest investment I would say,” he said.
Former Yale University President Rick Levin is on the Reopen Committee. He says colleges are thinking about ending the Fall semester at Thanksgiving. Students would do their last classes and exams online, then come back to campus in January.