HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut educators and families gathered at the capitol steps Wednesday, advocating for a safe, fully-funded return to school.
The recently formed group, Connecticut Public School Advocates, says the state’s reopening plan is dangerous and irresponsible.
“How are we going to send our kids back into a burning building?” one woman asked, addressing the crowd Wednesday.
Leslie Blatteau, a teacher from New Haven, said, “We need to put the brakes on in-person learning. We need to fully fund remote learning so that it’s thoughtful, engaging, and trauma-informed. And we need economic relief for families in Connecticut.”
Until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, they say, it is not safe to bring kids together. They neither want in-person school this fall nor a hybrid model. They say it’s only a matter of time for the outbreak to spread with schools open.
When asked why they are calling for no in-person schooling when Connecticut has some of the lowest COVID rates in the country, they say going back to school will risk all that.
As part of the rally, they set up an art installation showing how children, even when apart, are connected and how quickly the virus can spread in a school setting.
Carolanne Vining, an East Hampton art teacher, helped plan and construct the installation.
She explained to News 8, “these strings represent the spread of the coronavirus and how we really don’t know when someone’s infected where it was, where is it going, where did it spread to?…You can’t not look at it. It’s here; this whole installation represents the lack of control the ease of spreading.”
Each cardboard cutout in the installation represents teachers, students, and other staff members inside school buildings.
Vining said, “you want to be as safe as you can, you want to take all precautions. But when one kid gets sick, when one teacher gets sick in the building what’re you going to do? It’s already there.”
Vining is a not only an art teacher but a mother of four: “There is this level of grieving that’s occurring for teachers, for families. People are actually grieving, as well. People in every district across the state have lost somebody.”
A somber graveyard, a symbolic image to illustrate their message.
“Art has an incredible ability to communicate meaning to people,” Vinning said.
And hope for change ahead of the school year: “no matter what language or speak, no matter where you’re from, the symbols are here and you can relate to them in your own way.”