HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - The Connecticut Education Association released its plan for reopening schools in the fall.
Its teachers called for delayed openings, staggered schedules, distance learning and guaranteed funding to ensure healthy and safe schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a chief concern.
"The health and safety of our students, our educators, and our communities cannot be sacrificed in order to get students back into the classroom," the CEA said in a news release. "The state’s plan, which calls for a full-time return to school, raises serious questions about maintaining the safety of everyone in our school communities during a pandemic that is not fully under control."
The CEA's plan wants six actions to be taken before schools reopen. It described the steps as a combination of health and safety safety standards along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols.
- Delaying the opening of school if CDC and public health and safety requirements for schools cannot be met.
- Guaranteeing that the state will provide districts with funding for all COVID-19 expenses so that school districts can meet the CDC and public health and safety requirements.
- Recognizing and addressing the risks for students, teachers, and staff in school during a pandemic.
- Understanding that moving the economy forward depends on the safety of schools, not just reopening schools.
- Allowing districts to begin the school year through distance or remote learning where necessary; for any in-class learning, districts must reduce density through staggered schedules to meet CDC and public health and safety requirements for schools.
- Requiring weekly testing for all students, teachers, and staff, who return to school, and instituting contact tracing protocols.
Read the entire CEA plan here.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our students, our educators, and our families safe,” said Jeff Leake, CEA President. “We owe our students and educators the measures of safety and security they deserve. We must not fail to provide the necessary protections and risk new increases in COVID-19 infection rates, especially in light of new evidence showing that most school children can spread the virus the same as adults.”
Leake said no one wants to return to school more than teachers.
"But during a global pandemic the health and safety of our students and educators must be our first priority," he said.
The CEA said its teachers know how easily the virus can spread in classrooms with poor ventilation, windows that don’t open, and a lack of funding to ensure proper disinfecting and sanitizing stations. It said schools, especially those in high-poverty districts, will need more funding, not less, as students return with increased needs due to learning loss, trauma from the pandemic, and time away from school.
"We can’t allow students living in high-poverty districts, students with special needs, and English learners to fall further behind," Leake said. "Without funding, that’s exactly what will happen. In order to fully recover from the pandemic, restore our economy, and address racial disparities in our schools, the state must provide the needed funding for our schools to reopen safely.”
Teachers reacting say they are concerned about the safety of students and teachers when it comes to returning to the classroom.
"Interactions are very important. When we do this, how many interactions is everyone going to have when everyone is facing the same direction and you can’t do much group work like we’re used to doing. Teaching has changed," said Mark Janick, a statistics teacher at Suffield High School.
He's also a parent, and said he's worried about schools being able to maintain social distancing.
"Everywhere I go, you’re 6 feet distance, you’re wearing masks, and I don’t want a classroom to be different than that," Janick said.
He adds that classrooms are not meant to hold students 6 feet apart.