HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Connecticut leaders are still pushing forward with a plan to send students back to school in the fall, but many parents are concerned about safety.
Gov. Ned Lamont joined state education leaders to provide more details about it during a video conference Thursday morning that lasted a few hours.
During the virtual meeting, State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said he wants schools to reopen, as long as the public health data remains positive.
The state has asked for several reopening plans from each district, based on severe, moderate, or fair health conditions.
Cardona said they’re also asking districts to tell them what they need so the state can support them this fall.
“I think there’s a fair amount of anxiety being expressed by our teachers and parents about whether our districts will have the monetary resources to safely return. As you are aware, there are currently multiple funding streams for districts to use in relation to COVID-19 expenses,” Cardona said.
Lamont released some of the bullet points of the plan in recent weeks, which will make classrooms look different.
First and foremost, students will be required to wear masks at school and on the bus. School leaders will be in charge of making sure buildings have adequate ventilation. All desks will be front facing and the same group of students will stay together throughout the day in an effort to minimize any potential COVID-19 spread.
Also, the state is making temporary accommodations on a distance learning plan for families who don’t feel comfortable or have a child with pre-existing conditions.
Read through the plan here.
Many of the key questions parents have revolve around how will the plan will be executed. Some teachers have already publicly worried that some of the finer points are either unrealistic or nearly impossible to carry out.
During the virtual meeting, there was a question and answer portion where leaders responded to questions posed by parents and students; 300 were submitted.
“I think it’s going to be difficult not having children too close to each other, riding buses, but I understand that they need it,” said Ann Miazga, who wants to know her daughters who are teachers will be safe before they return to the classroom this fall.
State leaders addressed some of the most popular concerns, saying there will be trauma support for students and staff.
As far as health and safety, Cardona said districts will be prepared to provide masks to students who need one.
Students will be a part of the conversation to make sure mask wearing is followed.
They also addressed funding, saying 90 million dollars in federal funding has been distributed to the districts, and more can be accessed through FEMA.
"We can use the state level reserve funds to help them meet and fill those gaps, particularly in the area of distance learning," said Chief Financial Officer Kathy Dempsey.
Right now, state leaders are asking districts to submit several plans based on severe, moderate, and fair public health conditions.
“We’re only having this conversation because we probably have the lowest infection rate in the country right now. We have the lowest level of positivity in the country and that allows us to go back to school safely with your input,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.
Connecticut Education Association President Jeff Leake said they have a better understanding of how the state will handle air quality in schools and special education.
However, he said teachers still have concerns about funding and cohorting.
“Our members are worried about a packed school bus coming in and not knowing what took place on the ride in, what may take place on the ride home, so that is still an issue for us,” he said.
One thing that Lamont and President Donald Trump agree on though is that it is vitally important to ensure as many children as possible return to school in the fall.
“The American Pediatrics came and reinforced our message from our guide," Lamont said. "There’s nothing more important than getting those kids in there safely.”
"We want the schools to be open and going in the fall and most of them are looking at it that way," Trump said. "We're finding out that learning by computer is not as good as learning in the classroom or learning on the campus."