HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Connecticut's governor said schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Gov. Ned Lamont made the announcement on Tuesday morning.
In a tweet, he said "Due to the ongoing pandemic, in-person classes at K-12 schools in Connecticut will remain canceled for the rest of the academic year. Given the circumstances, this is the best course of action for the safety of students, educators, and staff."
#BREAKING: Due to the ongoing pandemic, in-person classes at K-12 schools in Connecticut will remain canceled for the rest of the academic year.Given the circumstances, this is the best course of action for the safety of students, educators, and staff. https://t.co/0mo9VUVq29 pic.twitter.com/qKgVcMP4uh— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) May 5, 2020
Lamont has alluded to keeping students home for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year during a news conference over the weekend.
On Tuesday morning, Lamont said distance learning will continue during this period.
Schools will also be required to continue providing meals to children under the school lunch and breakfast programs.
Lamont and other education leaders are expected to discuss this announcement further during a media briefing at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The difficult decision to cancel classes for the remainder of the year is based on the health and safety of our students, their families, and our Connecticut communities,” Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “While technology and remote learning will never replace the experience of our students in their school community, we are committed to constantly improving access to high-quality materials and connectivity for our students. Districts are working hard to find creative ways to celebrate the success of our seniors, as well as students who are transitioning from fifth and eighth grade. With the Reopen Connecticut Education Team, we are committed to preparing re-opening plans for summer school, as well as fall classes. While we do this, we also thank our dedicated educators today for their service to their students’ academic and social emotional needs.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday morning that schools in his state will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
"All schools will remained close for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year to protect the health of our children, our educators, and their families," Murphy said. "Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his decision last week.
"We’re going to have the schools closed for the rest of the year, we’re going to continue the distance learning," Cuomo said on Friday.
New York was the first state in the region to make such an announcement.
It's expected other states will follow.
Lamont hinted a number of times that students might sit out the rest of the school year.
He said several factors play a role, including how to maintain social distance at all grade levels, whether in the classrooms or hallways.
The Connecticut Education Association said applauds the governor for making this decision.
“We understand the emotion and sadness regarding closing schools and missing certain milestones and celebrations, but at this time, everyone’s top priority must be to protect the health of students and staff, and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said CEA President Jeff Leake.
The CEA also said special accommodations must be made while the pandemic continues to pose a risk, including:
- Comprehensive coronavirus testing, tracing, and tracking
- Requirements to ensure everyone wears personal protective equipment
- District-provided personal protective equipment
- Staggered start times
- Protections for those at heightened risk—for example, due to health conditions or age
- Revised transportation and school bus protocols and schedules
- Reductions in class size and social distancing protocols
- New lunchtime and classroom seating formats
- Limits or restrictions on visitors
Lamont said he is giving universities and colleges more flexibility and discretion.
Campuses with residence halls have more to worry about with tight living quarters compared to commuter schools.
"Later on this week, you can hear from the university group who put in place a really good plan on how we can slowly get our universities, colleges and community colleges back up to speed," Lamont said.
The Board of Regents and leaders at private colleges said they're working on a final decision for higher education students.
Educators react to announcement
Since school has been closed for almost two months, school superintendents said a decision needed to be made.
Now they need to continue with distance learning and make sure students are up to speed in the fall.
Distance learning may be a little easier for middle and high school students, but the concern is younger children could be hurt the most.
The East Hartford Public Schools superintendent said some children may need help during the summer.
"High school athletes will be missing their season, high school seniors will not have a graduation they and their families envision, that concerns me a lot because that's a loss, but I think for me right now is moving onto those next steps and what happens this summer with next fall will look like,” said Superintendent Nathan Quesnel.
He added that they will look to the state department for guidance when it comes to summer school.
The executive director of CAPSS, which is the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said younger children could be at a disadvantage.
"Children in middle and high school are better suited developmentally as well as having had experience with online learning,” said Fran Rabinowitz, of CAPSS.
Teachers are also weighing in.
Ashlyn Rice teaches kindergarteners and first graders at a private school in Avon, saying she had a feeling students wouldn't go back
"I’ve been preparing for it from the start, so it's not like anymore work that needs to get done that isn't already," she said.
Then there's graduation. Many schools are looking at virtual events, but a group of parents are pushing the governor to allow seniors to have an outdoor event with limited guests.
Ultimately, it would be up to the governor to decide whether schools could have graduations.
Stay with Channel 3 for continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.