WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In the third-floor library of a newly renovated West Haven High School Governor Ned Lamont asked, “Who feels comfortable going back to school now?”
A dozen students, mostly seniors at West Haven High School, told the governor and Education Commissioner they want to go back to school.
Joshua Ofori-Attah a senior at West Haven high pointed out he learns better when it’s in person. Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona asked, “Are you all zoomed out?” Joshua exclaimed, “Yes!”
For recent graduate Neishaly Colon, who went to high school in nearby New Haven, her worries are about younger siblings bringing something back home after a day in school.
“I’m scared. I live with both of my grandparents and they have cancer,” said Colon. “How am I ensured my sisters going into high school and middle school in New Haven, or in general, are going to be safe?”
“I can’t promise things are 100-percent safe, but we are doing everything we can to keep kids safe,” admitted Governor Lamont.
In West Haven, the Superintendent says twenty-five teachers out of five hundred have already submitted letters saying they will not return to the classroom for health reasons.
The state is considering waiving certification requirements for student-teachers which would allow local superintendents to sign off and schedule them to fill in the gaps.
The cleanliness of buildings and playing sports are also a concern.
Commissioner Cardona said he was going to be on a zoom call with the head of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) to get guidance. “What are the recommendations? There has to be activity but how to do it safely.”
In New Haven, the district is leaning towards a hybrid plan, with Pre-K through 3rd-grade doing in-person learning and putting middle school and high school students on a staggered schedule combined with online learning.
The New Haven Superintendent, Dr. Ilene Tracy, says she is fielding calls from parents daily. “There is a lot of trepidation out there,” Dr. Tracy tells us.
Each district will have a compliance liaison, but who will be responsible for helping to enforce the rules and field reports of abuse?
Commissioner Cardona says it is required in every district plan that the person’s name and phone number or contact information be available. “That’s a layer of protection before you go back to school you should know who that is.”
Lamont says track and trace will be key for schools that have any COVID-19 cases. “If one person is infected then more people can get infected so we are going to be strict about it.”
The governor also says he is giving sole discretion to local districts and superintendents to make the final decisions.