HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Thirteen billion dollars in emergency relief from the CARES Act will go towards state and local education around the country. But those in the teaching arena said education after COVID-19 is going to take a lot more than money to work.
Sylvester Salcedo, a retired attorney and now stay at home dad, said his kids miss the school the interaction with their teachers and classmates.
“I haven’t done a single thing with my littlest today, but I’ve already been on three Google meets so far and I’ve corrected a bunch of stuff, so it’s a really tough balance,” said Lisa Fanelli, a high School teacher.
Whether you are a teacher from Wethersfield or a dad from the town of Orange, the balancing act is real.
Dr. Miguel Cardona the State Education Commissioner said plans for the fall are being crafted.
“We want to make sure we are not bringing infection into the school.”
He said the transition will start with masks.
When asked: “Everyone wants to know if it’s going to be mandated?”
He replied: “At this point we are looking at re-engaging students with masks,” which is easier said than done.
“It’s hard to keep it on for a long period of time,” Dr. Iline Tracey the Superintendent of New Haven Schools said about masks. “You start getting marks on your face and you breathe in your own air.”
But her district will follow the rules if that is what is required. The New Haven school district did a survey and 70% of families said they did not have a dedicated device for hands-on learning. What is worse, they couldn’t even reach 2,000 families to get them one because phone numbers and emails were not updated.
Dr. Tracey is utilizing school resource officers and parent teacher community teams to try and get in touch with students.
“We need to know not just academic portion but what is happening to them? Are they safe?”
The Elm City and other cities around Connecticut are experiencing a digital divide.
“To continue with this new normal, we are going to have to have families having access to internet,” she said.
Dr. Tracy and her tiger team are working with internet providers. In Wethersfield, a makeshift “geek squad” is pressed into action. But even teachers who are moms struggle.
“Yesterday, she came to me with her iPad and she said, ‘Look, I’m all done,’ and everything was checked off. And I said hmmm? Let’s go check,” said Lisa Fanelli.
Brandeis University’s Child Opportunity Index shows stark inequities in neighborhoods that affect children. With more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., children living in neighborhoods with higher rates of illness and death may be facing grief and trauma, food insecurity, housing instability and abuse.
And, school closures and lack of access to opportunities for learning could put many of these children further behind academically, according to Brandeis University researcher Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.
“It does concern me double because we know that in many of these communities, grandma or grandpa live with the families and students are going home to those families,” said Cardona.
Without standardized testing available, its a tough call to “retain” a student.
“This is certainly exceptional, but to retain a student based on the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t think is fair and appropriate,” said Mike Emmett Superintendent of Schools in Wethersfield.
School will be different. In South Korea, workers in hazmat suits disinfect classrooms, students have their temperatures taken before they walk in the front doors and there are hand sanitizer stations and 6 foot markers on the ground. The cafeteria has plastic barriers so children can eat lunch without wearing a mask.
Despite all the setbacks, Tracey said there is still some glimmer of hope.
“When there is a snow storm there can still be online learning.”
Sylvester Salcedo, of Orange, said moving forward his family will do their part because it takes a village.
“As a family to keep our kids safe and to keep other children of other families safe as well.”