NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Some lawmakers and teachers are unhappy with the state’s new guidance for going back to school in the fall.
The plan is based on a tiered, color-coded system that would allow for in-person classes with proper hygiene and precautions, and depends heavily on how the state fares with new infections in the coming months.
The initial release of the plan, which only gave the broad outline, is coming under fire from Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, who called it unrealistic.
“It’s definitely creating panic,” she said. “Like I said, I’ve heard from so many teachers, parents, friends who have said, ‘do you have any details on this? Do you know anything about it?’ So, I think a much better place to start would have been to give teachers the heads up, give parents the heads up, or to release the full plan so parents would see, ‘we’ve already addressed the things you’re concerned about.'”
Hayes said she spoke with the Governor Ned Lamont and the education commissioner on Friday.
“I talked to the governor and the commissioner today, and there was an assurance that if at any point this plan feels unsafe, that they’re open to changing it,” said the congresswoman, adding, “I reminded them it’s important to communicate that out so that public sentiment understands, this is what’s happening and we’re considering as much as we can for every possible scenario.”
Unions heads said they too have questions, and are asking for measures like smaller class sizes and routine testing.
“I don’t think he has given us any tools or any funding to move forward with,” said teacher Erin Daily with the Connecticut Education Association. “I’d really hate to see all of our herculean efforts that we have done, wasted by throwing all students and employees back into schools without a cohesive plan.”
“We want appropriate PPE,” added Mary Yordon with AFT Connecticut. “We do need more funds to operate our schools properly. That would include potentially increased number of buses, hand sanitizer stations, the ability to wash your hands, increased changes to, for example, school bathrooms.”
The governor responded to the criticism, saying he has sent his 50-page plan directly to Hayes and plans to release it to the public on Monday.
“Everybody cares deeply about education and has strong feelings,” Lamont said. “But, I also think they understand we want to get our kids back to school safely and see if we can do that on time.”
So far, the plan indicated the following:
- Separating desks.
- Washing hands or using sanitizer.
- Constant use of masks indoors.
- Disinfecting shared surfaces.
- Cohorting—or keeping the same students in small groups.
In the meantime, Hartford Public Schools said previous studies show reducing class size even just through third grade could cost millions.
Spokesman John Fergus said the district worked hard to tackle the “technology divide” during the start of the pandemic when students were forced to work from home and staff needed to ensure access to laptops and the internet. Fergus said a task force, led by the superintendent, continues to survey families and students about concerns and hopes for going back.
“Obviously, there’s a lot there, a lot of logistics, a lot of input that we’re seeking to find from both the state as well as from our families and staff to ensure when we go back to school that we’re going to be able to support everyone safely.”
The governor said the state has given out $100 million in federal COVID funding to schools and that he’s hoping for more.