State Teachers Union Calls For Delayed School Opening Two Weeks

The Connecticut Education Association is calling for a delayed public school start by two weeks, to mid-September.

The primary reason they say is to give time to improve and expand remote learning.

“The state must revise school reopening plans to protect our school communities, especially in light of new reports confirming that children can readily transmit COVID-19 and may be drivers of the pandemic. Remote learning is still the safest option. Any return to the classroom requires additional precautions, including strict social distancing and access to COVID-19 testing, that are not currently included in the state plan,” said CEA President Jeff Leake in a statement.

The CEA said in light of new medical reports and scientific findings on the spread of COVID-19 to young children, they want state policy changed to recommend all-remote learning for districts with a “moderate” or “high infection rate,” or an inability to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

The state union released an updated set of recommendations for returning to school.

Equity. The union wants equity in decisions for students, teachers, administrators, staff, and their families. “Inequities with respect to funding, access to technology, and access to social and healthcare services are inexcusable,” they said in their updated plan. “In addition, scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows a disproportionately adverse impact of COVID-19 on children and adults of color, who are more at risk than the general school population. While the cumulative COVID-19 hospitalization rate among children is low compared with that among adults, weekly hospitalization rates in children increased significantly during the surveillance period of March 1 through July 25, 2020. At least 97,000 children in the US tested positive in the last two weeks of July.”

They want accommodations for at-risk students, teachers, and staff.

They seek funding to districts for COVID-related expenses.

They want contact tracing for any in-class learning and testing with turnaround times of 24 hours or less.

Lastly, the union wants HVAC systems upgraded to improve air quality and protect health.

The union noted the State Dept of Education recently clarified that all local districts can choose to reopen with a hybrid or all-remote learning model, and noted both Rhode Island and Massachusetts pushed back the start of school for two weeks.

“Now is the time to adopt CEA’s recommendations and provide clear, updated safety guidelines rooted in medical studies and scientific research,” Leake said. “Failure to strengthen these protections risks creating COVID-19 hotspots, as we see happening in other states. If we do not reopen schools the right way—which means the safe, equitable way—we will reverse the progress Connecticut has made. We must do better for Connecticut’s children, educators, and their families.”

CEA members are pre-K through grade 12 public school teachers, as well as college students studying to become teachers and retired teachers. Back on July 31, the CEA organized a series of car rallies throughout the state to demand safe and healthy precautions and state funding for reopening plans.

Fairfield County teachers staged a series of caravans on Thursday to demand safe and healthy precautions and state funding for school reopening plans, July 30, 2020. Photo: Matt Bracchitta

The State Dept of Education did give districts a waiver of 3 instructional days to instead use for staff development. As a result, the first day of school for all Greenwich students will be September 9, which is unique in that it falls after Labor Day. September 8 will be an orientation day.

Back on July 30, the CEA and local unions organized a series of car rallies across the state, including one in Greenwich.

“The main objective is to raise awareness about the difficulties municipalities are facing because of inconsistent messages from the state,” said Carol Sutton, GEA president, at the rally.

“This was not about what our (school) administration is trying to do. It’s not about being upset with Toni Jones or the Board of Education,” Sutton added. “It’s apolitical. We’re here with people from all over the area.”

The CEA plan notes that starting school in August with very high temperatures and humidity – and no air conditioning in most classrooms – and trying to enforce mask-wearing for 5+ hours in those conditions is not practicable.

Click here for the full, updated CEA Safe Learning Plan.

See also:

Board of Ed to Hold Special Meeting Thursday on School Reopening

On Thursday CEA and AFT-CT organized car caravans to send a message to Governor Lamont that Connecticut must direct resources to school districts in order to fully implement protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Photo: Leslie Yager