HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - The governor is defending his back-to-school plan while local and state leaders addressed concerns.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary joined Sen. Chris Murphy and other lawmakers to talk about the challenges districts face this fall.
Gov Ned Lamont said he has teachers' backs, but the Connecticut Teachers Association doesn't feel the same way.
"I think we all get it," said Rep. Jahana Hayes, 5th District. "Kids need to be back in school. I'm glad there's a national conversation about the achievement gap. All of the sudden, everybody's concerned about all of these things because the economy is affected by them, but at the end of the day this cannot be an experiment where six months down the road we come back and say we made a mistake and children are the casualties in this."
In response to Lamont, the president of the Connecticut Education Association, Jeff Leake, said it would be a significant cost.
"Reopening Connecticut schools safely this fall will cost significantly more and may involve staggered schedules to reduce density and risk," Leake said in a statement. "We must ensure that all students and school districts have the resources they need, especially in our poorest communities. In order to protect against the [COVID-19] pandemic, restore our economy, and address racial disparities in our schools, the state must provide the needed funding for our schools to reopen safely."
Leake went on to say that while he appreciated the governor's pledge, the concern lies in districts with high-poverty, students with special needs, and English learners.
Under Lamont's plan, each district needs to create its own plan and submit it by next Friday, July 24.
That way it can be posted online so parents can see it.
Parents will be tasked with making some difficult decisions in the coming months.
“I’m worried that once school opens, we’re going to see a lot more kids get this virus,” said Kelly Aguiar.
Return to school is on the minds of so many parents right now, including Aguiar.
The South Windsor mother has a daughter entering high school and a son starting kindergarten.
As districts prepare their back to school plans, there’s a lot Aguiar is worried about.
“My concern really is keeping them apart. Especially the little ones. They don’t really understand what is going on,” she said.
Many of those school related concerns were addressed today at the Waterbury Arts Magnet School.
“I had a call with FEMA and they said they will not prioritize PPE for schools. So the first thing I thought about, there’s going to be 170 school districts in CT who are competing to purchase PPE on their own,” said Rep. Jahana Hayes.
Districts like Waterbury are concerned about funding.
“I ask that in all the considerations, it’s the funding on a sustainable basis, so that we can continue to make great things happen,” said Waterbury Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin.
Under Governor Lamont’s back to school plan, each district needs to create their own plan and submit it by July 24th.
On Thursday the governor defended his plan with a message to teachers.
“Teachers, you’ve gotta know that I’ve got your back. Everything I’ve done to date, we’ve erred on the side of caution,” he said.
Many agree that it’s important to bring students back inside classrooms, at least some time.
Students will have to wear masks on the bus and inside classrooms.
But some parents, like Aguiar, are still grappling with what to do come the new school year.
“If I choose to keep them home and do that online component, I fear that my kids will fall behind in their education,” she said.
Governor Lamont says declining numbers in our state should help reassure parents.
Students will have to wear face masks on the bus and in the classroom, the state wants to keep all students K through 8 together in small groups, and there will be building inspections to make sure there is adequate ventilation.
"I’m going to do everything I can to give you the confidence you need when it comes to masks, when it comes to disinfecting, social distancing, to make sure you know you can get back safely,if it’s ok by a doctor to get back," Lamont said.
Meanwhile, the state's top health officials are preparing for another surge in coronavirus cases in Connecticut. They said it's a matter of when, not if.