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Teachers’ union says Equity Gap is widening during COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Two months into the academic year, one of the state’s largest teachers union says the Equity Gap is widening.

The Connecticut Education Association released a survey Tuesday suggesting the lowest-performing districts are not getting as much help to battle COVID-19 as other districts.

The CEA survey found in Alliance districts, those which are low performing, that:

  • 78% of teachers reported poor air ventilation
  • 49% say schools aren’t cleaned daily
  • 75% are not confident in the schools contact tracing plan
  • 48% say there is not enough PPE

Kate Dias, a math teacher at Manchester High School, says the pandemic “is identifying the haves and have nots in education.”

But Nancy Sara, the New Britain Superintendent of Schools, disagrees, saying “we are giving the best we can here in Connecticut.”

Sara adds, “We are giving the best education now during a pandemic.”

RELATED: CEA report highlights disparities among school districts in education, safety amid pandemic

The CEA survey also found there’s not enough help for special education students, and some students still don’t have a device for distance learning or WiFi.

The State’s Education Commissioner Dr. Miquel Cardona says, “We have 97% connection. And what we have to do is continue to work with students who are disengaging.”

But Dias shared, “I have kids who say, ‘Mrs. Dias, I have to get off and go to work.’ They are part of the family unit that works. This is unchartered territory.”

Cardona reports 370,000 students have returned to the classroom both hybrid and in-person.
of those, 370 students and 150 staff and teachers have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Miquel Cardona cautions, “The percentage of students affected are well below 1%, and again, there’s no way to attribute that infection happened in schools.”

A new COVID phenomenon: schools could close due to “COLD” days instead of “SNOW” days; Air vents stay open no matter the weather.

REALTED: Changes to Hartford schools possible as COVID-19 cases rise

In New Britain, they have waived their school uniform policy because during COVID, they have to treat ventilation differently, and students and teachers may have to layer up.

“If we want to come into the building and stay safe and ensure consistent fresh air flowing, you have to layer up,” added Superintendent Sara.

For districts like New Haven who chose to ONLY offer distance learning, the Governor says he’s not ruling by fiat.

“I’m not going to order them to go back to school,” he said. He believes in moral responsibility and not leaving kids behind.

But teacher Dias said, “We’re told that at grocery stores, you can’t overcrowd, so we set a lot of guidelines and then looked at schools and said, ‘Meh! If you can’t social distance, it’s not a big deal.’ That was reckless.”

She says state leaders have a false sense of security.

Cardona says since last spring, the State of Connecticut has been working aggressively to address the educational emergency that is exacerbating inequities due to the ongoing pandemic.

The state’s actions and investments in our students and educators demonstrate our continued commitment to ensuring equity and access by reducing barriers to learning while prioritizing the health and safety of our school communities, including securing $266 million (of which more than half went to Alliance Districts) to help districts deliver education in a way that is equitable, accessible, meaningful – and safe.

Our state’s funding package amounts to one of the largest state funding plans per-student in the region and country.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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