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.

RELATED: State releases complete breakdown of back-to-school plan

"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.

RELATED: Teacher’s union reacts to back-to-school plan released by the state

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.

Copyright 2020 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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(3) comments

Workmore

He should call Malloy for advice on this one.

Zarkster

Here is a letter I'm sending:

Dear Governor Lamont,

I am one of the many thousands of public school teachers in Connecticut wondering about your push to open our schools at 100% capacity. It's not that we don't want to teach our students like we were doing last fall, it's that we would like to see the 100% capacity model tried out elsewhere before we are used as a guinea pig environment.

Outdoor venues with fresh air aplenty such as amusement parks and race tracks have been allowed to open at 25% capacity. Indoor amusement sites like movie theaters with spacious luxury seating and lots of distance between rows can be at 50% capacity. Restaurants are set to serve diners at 50% capacity as well. Indoor private gatherings are limited to 25 people.

Sir, my single indoor classroom with poor ventilation is slated to hold 20 elementary students this Fall. My classroom's square footage is 600 square feet. According to information on CT.gov the maximum capacity for an indoor business based is based on the formula of 1 person/150 sq. feet.

Mr. Lamont, my classroom legally only has room for 4 students, yet I am being asked to teach 20 students. You want us to work in an environment that is over 500 times more crowded than allowed legally when you factor in my presence, and the presence of other staff members in the building like tutors, ELL and SPED teachers.

People are done at restaurants and movie theaters in about two hours. Then they leave. School lasts about seven hours. My school has no air-conditioning in classrooms. Have you ever worn a mask in a room that gets up to 88 degrees on warm days crowded with 20 other bodies. The majority of elementary school children do not have the ability to keep their mask on all the time in that setting. Most of us wouldn't.

Mr. Lamont, please reconsider your push for 100% of students being back at school full-time. We will happily go back when it is safe to do so, but that time has not yet arrived, and likely won't arrive until a vaccine is available. Until our government leaders and educational leaders are willing to go back to work full-capacity in air-conditioned buildings with in-person meetings attended by large numbers of people for many hours on end, it is rampantly hypocritical to start schools at full capacity.

Protect the lives of our states' students, their families, and the professionals that work in schools. Mandate a commitment to ensuring that hybrid models with reduced capacity are the ones being implemented, or ensuring that high-quality DLP learning is given.

Thank you,

Noah Bilmes

Public School Teacher since 1994

Alejandra

We ABSOLUTELY need more teacher's as yourself Mr. Bilmes. That are willing to stand up for what they pledged the day they decided to persue a Teaching Career. I absolutely agree with the fact that our children, staff and administrators shouldn't be experimented with because once a child becomes infected that is enough to say that our government has failed. Unfortunately, the state we live in would just throw the blame elsewhere.

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