HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – State leaders continue to prioritize efforts to ensure students and teachers remain in the classroom amid a spike in COVID-19 across Connecticut.

Families are concerned, and state leaders reaffirmed to everyone on Tuesday that they hear those concerns, and they want to do what’s best for everyone. What state leaders believe is best is keeping schools open, but the key is doing so safely.

They’re doing that by making sure schools implement and enforce safety measures, including making sure everyone is masked, maintaining social distance, and washing hands often. There’s also a focus on testing, something they know can be hard to come by.

The video below is from a previous newscast on Jan. 4

Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday 620,000 at-home rapid COVID-19 tests were distributed directly to public and private K-12 schools and 50,000 went to early childcare providers across the state. The governor said this is the first phase of allocation for schools and anticipates more allocations in the coming days.

The tests, which are intended to be used by students and staff, were manufactured by iHealth Labs and FlowFlex, according to the governor’s office. While the use of the tests is at the discretion of schools and early childcare providers, the Connecticut State Department of Education provided school officials with the following recommended guidance recommending:

  1. If a child or staff person exhibits symptoms and needs to be screened for COVID-19;
  2. If a child or staff member has a direct exposure to an individual with COVID-19; and
  3. If a class or program is experiencing multiple cases of COVID-19, a school may want to distribute tests to all students in that classroom if they have difficulty accessing tests.
  4. Students and staff who have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not need to test again

Schools and early childcare providers began picking up their assigned allotments from the state’s five distribution centers Tuesday morning, the governor’s office said.

“We did pretty well when it came to tele-learning last time around, but we also learned the hard way that learning via Zoom is not nearly what it should be, when it comes to being the classroom, with your peers, with your friends, with the teacher who loves them in this day in age,” Lamont said.

“To our families, we hear you: your safety concerns as well as your commitment to keeping your kids in school, given the disruption with the pandemic,” Charlene Russell-Tucker, the state Department of Education’s commissioner, said.

State leaders also said a critical piece to keep keeping schools open is making sure everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated and boosted.

The state Department of Public Health released new guidelines Monday for PreK-12 students and staff if they are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19.

Tuesday night on News 8 at 5, we dive deeper into how districts are adapting.

Review COVID-19 Test Kits Distribution for Public School Districts and Non Public Schools (Phase 1: January 3, 2022) here.