NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven’s Board of Education discussed the future of virtual and hybrid learning models for students at Monday’s meeting. But they left the four-hour discussion without a vote. That means students will begin the year with 10 weeks of all virtual learning as previously suggested.
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“I just don’t really think they should go back so soon,” said Adria Mcknight, of New Haven. “This is something I have never seen or imagined we’d ever go through.”
Mcknight, who has three children in New Haven Public Schools, said she’s happy her children are starting their year off with remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
But, other parents News 8 spoke to felt keeping kids at home is a mistake.
“I feel like school should resume,” said Nyeisha Douglas, of New Haven.
“As long as they’re washing their hands and keeping their masks on, they should be able to go back to school,” said Bonita Hobby, of New Haven.
The next topic up for debate: Remote or a hybrid plan to welcome students back to class?
That was the question as New Haven Public Schools was set to make a decision for over 20,000 families. The decision not without controversy.
Previosuly, the board decided a few weeks ago to go fully remove for the first 10 weeks of the school year followed by a hybrid model where students would go in for traditional learning.
This as teachers across the city have gone to great lengths to prepare to bring students back with new social distancing protocols.
The State Department of Education, however, skeptical of the plan and offered the state’s assistance to make in-person learning work.
Board member Darnell Goldson said, “The state is kinda threatening us at the meeting we had with them if we don’t open up sooner, that $5.3 million is going to vanish or disappear or get smaller.”
Dr. Edward Joyner of NHPS added, “I’m not going to let one person at the State Capitol tell me how I should manage the challenges in my community. We voted for these people. They are our servants. They are not our kings and queens. They don’t rule us. And that’s our money. Not their money.”
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Now, many are looking to city officials and school leaders to help make this plan work.
“The digital divide is a major, major issue,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
He said they’re working hard to make sure every student has access to a device.
“We’ve been doing that as a school system, but we’re also getting support from the state,” said Mayor Elicker. “There are some delays getting the shipment because there’s so much demand for devices.”
Mayor Elicker expects that to happen by mid-to-late September.
“Separately, we’re making sure every student has access to the internet. If there are families that cannot afford it, we will be facilitating free internet — internet essentials — for families.”
He hopes to get families signed up by next week.
At the board meeting
The board submitted three plans to the state in the last few weeks: one for in-person learning, an all remote plan and a hybrid plan.
A list of standards for safety was debated at Monday’s meeting since the state has left it up to the board to make the final decision.
Darnell Goldson, of the New Haven Board of Education, said Monday, “[Governor Ned] Lamont wants to normalize things because the business community is asking him to normalize. They want to see parents able to go back to work and do want they need to do. And our local mayor wants to see things normalize because he is getting the same pressure. Well, my pressure comes from the parents and staff of the schools, so my position is safety first.”
Board members not on board with the idea of having students in class with so many unknowns still looming as the state continues to battle COVID-19.
“I am not supportive of changing our motion at this point,” said Goldson.
Superintendent Dr. Ilene Tracey added, “It doesn’t matter what we do. There’s always going to be a problem with safety.”
Even through the heated debate of how students will safely start their school year through the new social distancing and sanitizing protocols, still, no new decision was made.
Yesenia Rivera, the Board president said, “Apparently we’ve all agreed that we’re not going to have a vote on this, so I suggest we just move on to the next item and you call a special meeting.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said, “If the board is not in a position to make a decision, and I thought we were in a good place to make that decision tonight, if we’re not in a position tonight, I’m not sure we’re going to get there tomorrow, or the next night, or the next night. Let’s give some certainty to this whole thing and go with 10.”