Thousands of educators participate in ‘blackout’ to protest safety protocols; Others wear red to sound alarm for students’ well-being

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Conn. (WTNH) – Thousands of educators across the state wore black to school on Wednesday, in what they called a ‘blackout’, to protest what the Connecticut Education Association calls unsafe conditions in certain schools.

They marched in the cold to show their concern over some schools not taking COVID safety steps.

More than 5,000 educators participated in a survey organized by The Board of Education Union Coalition. In that survey, 62 percent said they do not have the supplies and protocols in place to feel safe performing their jobs. That includes masking and testing.

“There are districts who aren’t doing that well, who didn’t have masks ready for the start of the school year after the vacation and I think our teachers and our students suffered for that lack of preparedness,” said Joslyn DeLancey, CEA Vice President.

While educators and staff agree that in-person learning is best for students, 88 percent believed superintendents should have the flexibility to move to remote instruction for a short period of time without having to make up the days.

“We’re not talking long-term remote instruction. We’re talking a day here or a day there when we have staff outages or a significant number of students absent,” DeLancey said.

Governor Ned Lamont says the state is providing all that.

“We’ve got well over 500,000 rapid tests out to all our schools. We’ve got millions of N95 masks and that’s all to give people the confidence that you can teach at school, your kids can go to school, you can go safely,” Lamont said. “If there are a few outliers, give us a call. I’ll drive them there myself.”

In Wallingford, the CEA says administrators are doing things right and teachers have masks and tests.

“But not everyone in the state does and we want to make sure that we are supporting our colleagues and we’re supporting students across the state,” said Anne Verrone-Lederle, Wallingford CEA.

The CEA found that safety varies from district to district.

“When we have an issue where there are supplies out there and just not provided in a consistent and fair and timely fashion is disappointing,” DeLancey said.

In addition to wearing black on Wednesday, many educators also wore red to highlight the importance of in-person learning. Organizers said the color symbolizes a red alert. These teachers believe COVID rules are affecting the mental health of students.

“The mental health crisis of being isolated, being quarantined, being healthy but told you had to go home for two weeks,” said Aaron Hoffman, a teacher at Ellington High School.

Hoffman said many of his colleagues are concerned stricter prorocols would be destructive.

“We need to do everything in our power to keep kids in school,” Hoffman added.

Lamont and his education commissioner have been clear that students in learn better in the classroom, not on Zoom.

While Hoffman rarely agrees with the Governor about how he’s managing the pandemic, he does agree with Lamont’s in-person learning rule.

“This has a significant mental health toll and we’re just starting to see that more and more,” Hoffman said.

Lamont said if the legislature would like to change the remote learning policy, they can debate it next month when the legislative session begins.

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