(WTNH) — This week, we presented an in-depth look at the COVID pandemic and its impact on Connecticut students. Clearly, it’s been a tough year.
The state’s top educators have plenty of homework and have started to waste no time by creating a task force called Accelerate CT. It’s a group of educators, administrators and leaders dedicated to getting our students back on track.
Irene Parisi is a major part of the Accelerate CT task force and is also our state’s Chief Academic Officer, “I hope this is an opportunity to change that narrative, it’s about unfinished school and what do we do now to change that narrative.”
How do we finish the school year?
Parisi answers, “Jump starting the learning experiences right now, into the summer and beyond.”
Also on the task force, Chris Soto. He is the Director of Innovation and Partnership for the Connecticut Department of Education. He says, “If we’re not taking advantage of this moment, we’re not doing anything different from the past then we’re losing this opportunity.”
Behind the task force is a chunk of money, $1.2 billion all for Connecticut schools. It comes from the federal relief package.
Soto has spearheaded the task of building the framework for summer programming, “And we’ve also hear that there’s never enough money to do some of the things we want to do. I told people this is the one time we can’t say we don’t have enough money.”
Soto says it’s their job to find the best way to use that money and make sure our students recover from the past pandemic year, “We think about that recovery as we think about students and accelerate as we move into summer and next year.”
Parisi says, “I think it’s important that we don’t get into a vicious cycle of remediation if we do then were not going to reengage our learners.”
The plans for summer programming are still in the works. The task force is still meeting weekly to finalize what it will look like.
“I think our focus was to be as flexible as possible for summer programs and school districts to work together because our state looks very different,” says Soto.
Mainly giving district the power to determine what it will look like for them individually, “We know that what may happen in northeast Connecticut may be very different than what happens in southeast Connecticut,” says Soto.
Beyond summer programming they’re looking towards the next school year and even the ones to follow. Soto says this is a time to take advantage of an opportunity, “I really hope that again we are using this moment as an opportunity. Weve long said certain school structures don’t work for students.”
Education leaders hope students will benefit from more project-based engagement and small group collaboration. They say that’s when deeper learning happens and that’s what students missed out on most this year.
They’re hoping to come up with new innovative ways to transform the school year and each classroom, “And if we’re not using that money in new innovative ways and just go back to the way things were before COVID and before these resources were infused in our state then were doing something wrong,” Soto tells News 8.
This isn’t a quick fix, rather a solution in motion. Parisi says it’s a solution that states across the country are working to find, “It’s not that we saw a deficit in districts we were hearing what are we going to do about learning loss what are the resources, and it was a national conversation.”
There’s no timeline for when the solution will happen but they are starting to look at kicking off the recovery this summer, “Its not going to happen everywhere but its going to happen in certain pockets and if we can take those pockets and replicate them around the state that’s where we win,” says Soto.