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State Dept. of Education hosts virtual Q&A session on reopening plan for fall

Education

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — The academic year is quickly approaching. To help discuss some of the issues and questions, the Connecticut State Department of Education (DoE) hosted a virtual question and answer session Thursday regarding the reopening plan for Pre-K-12 schools across the state.

The meeting came after officials released guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year. “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together” was created based on input from students, parents, teachers, public health officials and education stakeholders.

“There’s no one size fits all solution to opening schools in the fall,” said Miguel Cardona, Commissioner of Education. “Reopening will look a lot different in Southbury and Sprague, Connecticut, than it will in Hartford or Bridgeport.” 

The DoE is asking each school district for feedback and to come up with a plan that addresses three scenarios:

  • The opening of schools for all students.
  • A hybrid model with fewer students entering the building daily.
  • A return to full distance learning. 

RELATED: State Dept. of Education releases guidelines for 2020-2021 school year; online learning listed as an option for students

Those plans are due by July 24.

 Watch: The Department of Education’s full webinar can be seen here

There are concerns about monetary resources to close the digital divide providing laptops for students and internet access. 

“Equity needs to be at the front and center as we look to address the digital divide,” said Desi Nesmith, Deputy Commissioner of Education. “What does that mean? That means we have to prioritize our resources to be deployed first to districts that are in the most need.”

While state leaders want students back in the classroom, they want to make sure there’s a multi-layer of mitigation strategies that include keeping small groups of people together consistently. 

“It limits the exposure of individuals in that cohort with other individuals,” explained Deidre Gifford, Acting Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Public Health. “It also makes it easier to know if someone does get ill who they’ve been in contact with.” 

Every child and teacher will be required to wear a mask every day, but state leaders said mask breaks are an option. 

“Districts must be prepared to provide a mask to any student or staff member who does not have one,” stated Charlene Russell-Tucker, Deputy Commissioner of Education. “So, in cases where medical-grade masks are required, that would also be the responsibility of the district as well.”

WATCH: What happens if a teacher gets sick during the upcoming school year?

Another mitigation strategy will be providing PPE and sanitizing products for districts across the state.

“As districts consider staffing, we need to make sure we are thinking of our facilities staffing to make sure our buildings are clean and they are safe for students and staff,” Cardona added.

Leaders are also working on a policy for parents that don’t feel comfortable with their kids going back to school. 

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