GEA President: “Social distancing in most classrooms is a comforting lie.” District to Implement Rapid Antigen Testing

In Thursday’s virtual Board of Education meeting, Carol Sutton, president of Greenwich Education Association, again voiced teachers’ concerns about in-person learning during Covid-19.

She recalled how at last month’s meeting she told the BOE that teachers felt unsafe in their schools regardless of the mantra that schools are the safest place to be.

Sutton gave an example of a situation in which a student transmitted Covid-19 to his teacher in school.

“Social distancing in most classrooms is a comforting lie,” she said.

“Case in point, one of the in-school transmissions is a teacher who contracted the virus from a student,” Sutton continued. “On the day the student was contagious in school, the teacher worked with him for more than 15 minutes, within a proximity of 3 ft, both of them masked, with a plastic sneeze guard between them. She got sick, and while in quarantine, so did her husband and one of her children, also a student in Greenwich Public Schools.”

The teacher union president said the teacher contracted Covid-19 in school despite following district safety protocols, and that, because of asymptomatic transmission, no one can be certain in school transmissions were not happening more frequently.

“Not only so are numbers of cases in schools rising, but so is the risk of transmission, which is why districts all over Fairfield County are choosing to go remote around the holidays,” Sutton said. “Medical professionals predicted Halloween and Thanksgiving spikes, and the spikes happened.”

Sutton said the same experts are predicting a holiday spike, and some districts are planning accordingly.

“The Greenwich plan is to stay in, but be ready to go remote at a moment’s notice,” she said. “That was even the plan when we left school yesterday ahead of a storm. That is not a plan that teachers and parents can work for. The board and administration has to do better.”

She said the PTA presidents recently asked her how the teachers were doing.

“I said teachers are coming to school every day, but behind their game faces and their masks, they are not well at all,” she said. “What I should have added is that teachers are increasingly disillusioned because when they raise legitimate questions about safety, the answer is more, ‘Let go and Move On,’ than ‘Care for self and Others.'”

Sutton said parents should demand to know the district’s plan.

During her Superintendent’s update, Dr. Toni Jones said the district continues to enhance its Covid tracker on their website, and that last week they added a feature that allows people to look at the number of cases twice a week, and see trends over time.

“You can see where there were slightly more positive cases coming out of Thanksgiving – you’ll see that – and see in the morning’s tracker it’s going back down again. We want to encourage people to make good choices over the holidays. If people are traveling, we really need them to listen to the governor’s orders and do the appropriate quarantine, get tested if necessary depending on where they’re traveling.”

She said parents should direct questions to their school nurse.

She said the district’s number of days of required days of quarantine had not changed, though the CDC guidance changed to require fewer days. Also the CT Dept of Health put out their interpretation of that guidance, which could lower the number of quarantine days but based on current discussions with health departments it would mean more monitoring in the schools, and that between day 10 and 14, it would fall on the nurses to take temperatures and do screenings at school, and right now, because staff are busy wit contact tracing there isn’t adequate staff to do that.

Rapid Antigen Tests

Also, Dr. Jones said, the district is starting Antigen testing after applying at the state level. Antigen tests yield results in 15 minutes.

The test kits have arrived and school nurses were trained in their use this week.

“Now if a teacher has the sniffles, and they’re not really sure, and they want to be tested, they would be able to do that,” Jones said.

“I think it will make students and staff feel safer,” Jones said. “But you do have to be symptomatic, by state regulation, for nurses to use those – it has to be something from the (daily symptoms self checklist), like the sniffles.”

See also:

Keeping Schools Open as Pandemic Restrictions Tighten; Teachers Concerned Holidays Will be Spreader Events

Nov 24, 2020