HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona made a big announcement regarding education in the state.
The second wave of COVID-19 could happen in the fall, so a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration and could change by the time the first school bell rings.
Lamont said he wants to keep school as “normal” as possible, meaning starting the fall semester as close to the beginning of the school year as possible, while keeping the day close to a normal starting time and the schedule close to a normal school week.
He said it will allow businesses and families to schedule appropriately.
When going back, students and staff must adhere to the following:
- Maximize social distancing — including separating desks as far as possible and keeping apart while students and staff are in gymnasiums and auditoriums.
- Frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.
- Wear face coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth while in the building.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of spaces and surfaces.
- Cohort classes K-8 and 9-12 (when feasible) so they can work together and keep cross-contamination low.
U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, who is a former National Teacher of the Year, reacted harshly to the plan, tweeting at Governor Lamont:
The back-to-school plan is also facing criticism from teacher unions, who are eager to hear about more specifics.
“We have a lot of questions. There are not a lot of specifics to allow us to understand how we are implementing appropriate, science based safety measures within the reopening plan. What we really want is appropriate safety measures, which would include lower class size so we can maintain the six foot distance. We want appropriate PEE. We need need more funds to operate our schools properly.”Mary Yordon, President, Norwalk Federation of Teachers, AFT-CT #1723
Officials said those regulations could change based on health conditions at that time.
Buses will be available to transport students; however, face coverings must be worn by drivers and students. Social distancing on buses will be determined by the spread of COVID-19 at that time.
- No spread — buses at full capacity.
- Minimal spread — full capacity with safety protocols.
- Moderate spread — reduced capacity and social distancing.
Based on issues with remote learning within some districts, schools have been asked to identify gaps and develop action plans for reopening that specifically address inclusion, equity and access for all learners with strategies and clearly defined action steps.
Schools should also have a plan if classes need to go remote again.
- High COVID spread — full remote learning.
- Moderate spread — hybrid model.
- Minimal spread — full in-person classes with heightened health and safety protocols.
- Contained/vaccine — full in-person learning.
“Where there are cases where parents choose not to send their kids back to school, we need to be prepared in districts to provide a distance learning experience for the students that keeps them engaged in learning,” Cardona said.
The full plan can be seen below:
Below is the layout for summer schools:
- Only 10 people per classroom.
- No sharing of devices or materials.
- Spaced out bus seating.
- Masks mandatory.
- Temperature checks.
- No visitors to schools, among other restrictions.
Cardona said the main goal is to make sure whatever the plan is it is safest for students and staff.
“I want to make sure that wherever possible we can get students back into schools but we want to do so in a safe way.”
Some parents worry officials are taking all students into account.
“I would want them to be better prepared to address the concerns of the special needs families whether it be wearing a mask, whether it be getting their services, whether it be preparing for distance learning,” said parent, Kimberly Galluzzi. “I understand that with COVID-19, distance learning was a necessity and it was kind of rushed, but we just need to find a better way because it didn’t work.”
Cardona said a full, comprehensive plan will be released on Monday.
The Connecticut Education Association released a statement after the announcement. It read in part:
“Governor Lamont’s plan, released today, is short on specifics and doesn’t address some of the most pressing issues associated with reopening our buildings this fall. The new plan raises many concerns and leaves dozens of unanswered questions regarding how schools will operate in a COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) world. Simply directing district officials to follow generic CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations, without customizing requirements for the realities of our school settings, is insufficient for a safe statewide reopening.”
The organization is looking for the following accommodations:
- Smaller class sizes.
- Routine testing for COVID-19.
- Monitoring health and well-being of all students.
- State-provided personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Disinfecting schools daily.
- Cleaning classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and commonly shared areas and equipment, including desks and computers, to provide a safe learning and teaching environment.
“We have to work with the teachers union because I’m not seeing a teachers union who’s gonna double-take,” said Dr. Ilene Tracey, Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools. “I teach one group and then go back and re-teach students that are home, and how many parents can afford to do that.”