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When to go back to school? Teachers unions say wait for safety sake

Education

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Even before coronavirus, teachers were running toward the challenge.

President of Connecticut Education Association (CEA) — the state’s largest teachers union — Jeff Leake told News 8 “easing up on social distancing too quickly could be deadly.”

“I had a conversation with the governor [Ned Lamont] earlier in the week and pretty much stressed the same thing. I just don’t think we are ready to move forward with any sort of opening between now and June.”

His union and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) represent more than 70,000 teaching professionals. They have a seat on the governor’s reopen advisory group subcommittee on education. The group met this week. AFT also surveyed teachers.

“The response in these surveys was overwhelmingly in favor of safety and waiting,” Mary Yordon, President of Norwalk AFT, said. “Waiting for public health authorities to confirm it is safe to bring us back in person, in our schools.”

“We are also pretty sure there are a whole bunch of parents out there that would be very concerned about putting their children back into schools right now when we just don’t know the protocols that are in place,” Leake said.

CEA is pushing these safety guidelines when reopening:

  • Staggered start times.
  • New lunchtime format.
  • New classroom seating format.
  • Changes in hallway passing periods.
  • Smaller classroom sizes.
  • Ensure social distancing.
  • Daily cleaning/disinfecting of common areas.
  • Daily cleaning/disinfecting of computers and desks.

The State Education Commissioner, Miguel Cardona, released the following statement:

With the close collaboration of both the Department of Public Health and Governor Lamont, the decision was made to continue the cancellation of school classes until May 20th, at which point we will reevaluate the situation to determine if returning to the classroom this school year is feasible.  While this decision was not made lightly, it was made with the health and safety of our school communities in mind.

We will not resume any school activities prematurely but will do so when it is determined that it is safe for everyone, including teachers and students, to return to the classroom. There are many public health, social-emotional, and academic factors to take into consideration before we are ready to make the decision to extend in-school class cancellations for the remainder of the school year.

We remain hopeful but are asking districts to plan for that possibility while continuing all efforts to support their educators and provide distance learning and opportunities for continuity of education for their students.

News 8’s Jodi Latina asked parents what they think on social media. Amy from Wethersfield said it “seems like with 1,000 students in a high school it would be impossible to keep social distancing.” Amanda from Kensington said to “definitely wait until fall.”

Mary from Milford said “maybe seniors could go back for a week,” while Paul from Newington said “start again in fall, not worth the risk.” However, Stephen from Wethersfield said “absolutely go back [in May].”

You can weigh in on her Facebook page.

The State Education Commissioner is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

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