HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Teachers protested at the state capitol on Wednesday against new guidance just put out by the Connecticut State Department of Education regarding remote learning and dual teaching.
Union leaders said a law passed by the 2022 legislature prohibits dual teaching. This means teachers will no longer be able to teach a class simultaneously to students both in person and online.
The state agreed there are exceptions to the law for students with disabilities. This would include students who may have acute anxiety and need to transition back to in-person learning or a student undergoing a treatment like chemotherapy who needs to learn remotely.
The state said those exceptions would be allowed under federal laws that supersede conflicting state laws.
The teachers protesting at the capitol said that the new law restores bad pandemic practices that put student learning at risk.
“We have great skill sets in our abilities to utilize technology to teach fully remote. What we cannot do successfully is both,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “You cannot be in-person and online and instructionally sound at the same time.”
The new guidance will allow districts — but does not require them — to let students who may be home with COVID-19 or other illnesses to watch a class. Students would still be considered absent and would not be able to interact with the class.
“If the union’s position is that a disabled child who has to learn remotely can only do it in the context of other kids learning remotely that they don’t have the opportunity to participate with their… non-disabled peers that’s a violation of federal law,” said Mike McKeon, Legal Director of the Connecticut State Department of Education.
The new guidelines would also allow for intra-district and inter-district program sharing so a student from a district with limited courses could remotely take a class they want in another district that offers it.
“They are able to access educational opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” said McKeon. “This guidance is about equity.”
The new guidance also allows districts but doesn’t require them to let students who may be home with COVID or other illnesses to monitor a class. They would still be considered absent and they wouldn’t be able to interact with the class but they could monitor it while they are home.
Teachers say the technology can often pose challenges and those online don’t get the full experience as those in person when taught together.
“It’s one of those things where we say it’s equity on paper,” said Dias. “It’s not equity in practice.”