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Teachers across the state rally for ‘safety first’ ahead of students’ return to the classroom in the fall amid pandemic

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Teachers gathered at 20 municipalities across the state. They say they are fearful of returning to the classroom without proper COVID-19 health safety measures in place, pushing for online learning at least to start the year.

In Hartford Thursday, hundreds of teachers drove in a caravan past the governor’s mansion demanding a safe plan for the start of back to school. Protesters say what they’ve heard from local and state officials, so far, has not left them confident in either their or their students’ safety.

RELATED: Teachers rally in Hartford for safe and fully-funded return to school for kids

“Our kids are supposed to start the day after Labor Day and it’s face-to-face and we think it’s dangerous,” says Hartford music teacher Victoria Ascherman.

Ascherman says she loves her job so much that she passed that love on to her daughter, now an art teacher in the same district.

“We do want to teach. That’s not the question. The question is, ‘how to teach safely?’” said her daughter Jennifer Lazaroff.

Both women say their students are a priority.

“We wouldn’t do this job if we didn’t love our children,” said Ascherman. 

But these women also say they have a lot on the line.

“As a woman that’s nearly 65, I want to be able to get through this and continue my teaching career,” she added.

Teachers unions say they appreciate the hard work of state officials and districts to plan for the fall, but they want more time and equal treatment of students in cities and suburbs alike.

“I can’t imagine in four weeks we’re going to have all this stuff worked out,” another educator told News 8. “We’ve made some good progress, there’s no question about that. But do I feel that the first day of school we’ll have all these safety concerns, health concerns in place? It doesn’t look like it right now.”

“I want to see supplies. I want to see hand sanitizer. I want to see wipes. I want to see nurses. I want to see children wearing masks,” added New Haven preschool teacher Jocelyn Fuentes. “I want us to be ready to open. I do miss the kids, but we’re not ready to open.”

The Connecticut Education Association says most of its teachers are not ready for in-person classes, something the governor acknowledged this week. Governor Ned Lamont says he continues to work with local districts to develop plans for the fall.

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