WINDSOR, CT (WFSB) - Thousands of public school employees, including teachers, wore black on Wednesday to protest the way schools are operating amid a COVID-19 surge.

They said they don't believe they have the supplies or the staffing needed to protect themselves or their students from the virus.

"Bottom line is the kids have to be at school," said Cay Freeman, a teacher in Windsor. "And for us to do our jobs they have to be safe."

Wednesday morning, dozens of educators held a rally outside of schools in Windsor. Similar events were held at schools in other towns. 

Thousands of public school employees, including teachers, wore black on Wednesday to protest the way schools are operating amid a COVID-19 surge.

“I was really proud to see how many showed and stood together and really acknowledged that the work that we do is important, and it deserves to be recognized and supported,” said Kate Dias of the Connecticut Education Association.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he is trying to address the situation. He issued an executive order on Tuesday that allows retired teachers to be hired back.

Current teachers called "Executive Order No. 14E" just a Band-Aid for a big problem.

They said what they really want are more masks and rapid tests. They also want the return of contact tracing.

Students have also complained about the potential risks posed by COVID.

"When they have their masks on, they think they don't have to keep it on above your nose at all times when you really do," said Marvion Swan, a 10-year-old student. "The second thing is, when people are playing, let's say tag or hide-and-seek, they like getting way too close to touch each other."

Marvion's mother, Malika, said she got about 10 messages that warned her someone was positive for COVID at the school over the past few weeks. It was a concerning situation felt across the state.

That's why teachers called for action.

"Teachers want to be reassured resources to make sure that we can mitigate the virus as much as possible, so first, we need access [to] N95 or K95 masks," said Leslie Blatteau, social studies teacher and president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers.

Masks, access to rapid and PCR tests, and the ability to go temporarily remote are the main resources teachers urged the state to give them.

According to a survey, including more than 5,500 public school employees in Connecticut, more than 60 percent of them said they don't feel they have the supplies and protocols in place to feel safe performing their job; however, towns like Windsor have handed out supplies.

Second grade teacher Jen Delskey said it's not enough.

"Each teacher only received one of these masks," Delskey noted.

Because public school employees are getting sick, staff shortages are common.

That's where Lamont's executive order came into play. It's meant to eliminate some hiring restrictions and allow schools to re-employ retired teachers.

"It's a small Band-Aid for a really, really big problem. It is a possible solution, but I don't know if that's something fix when you have 30 to 40 teachers out in one building," Delskey continued.

It's a problem with which parents said they are also dealing.

Thousands of public school employees, including teachers, planned to wear black on Wednesday to protest the way schools are operating amid a COVID-19 surge.

"A lot of students can’t afford masks. A lot of parents can't afford to get masks for their children. A lot of people can't afford to get tested," Malika Swan said. 

Teachers in Windsor planned to act in solidarity on Wednesday in response to COVID-19 safety conditions.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education gave Channel 3 a statement.

Over a million tests have been distributed specifically for schools over the past week, and the distribution at the local level is up to individual districts working with their cities and towns. To date, more than 5 million N95 masks have been distributed, with many of them committed for educators.

Thousands of public school employees, including teachers, will be wearing black Wednesday to protest the way schools are operating amid the COVID surge.

Eyewitness News received a statement from the department late Wednesday morning following the teacher protests.

The Connecticut State Department of Education is in continuous dialogue with all of our union partners, and we continue to be solution focused in working through the complex challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. The Department of Education with support and guidance from the entire Lamont Administration is continuing the implementation of innovative processes to address staffing shortages, deploy millions of masks and test-kits for staff and students, and expand testing capacity within our schools and our communities. We want to thank our educators, administrators, and school staff for their efforts to navigate the pandemic and ensure our schools remain safely open, so that our students have access to in-person education, nutritious meals, and the social-emotional supports and other critical services schools provide. It is because of the dedication of our educators that Connecticut education system remains nation-leading and our students remain in the classroom, where we know they learn best.

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(9) comments

gothelittle

Meanwhile, out of all the people in ICU with COVID, not a single one of 'em is vaccinated and boosted. Do teachers not have access to vaccines or boosters? How can we get them better access? Isn't anybody tired of having a public education system full of antivaxxers who, even if they got the jab due to a mandate, don't believe that it'll do them any good? And why do they keep harping on Republicans and Trump supporters when it's teachers among others who keep sending the message that they have no faith in the vaccines despite all the medical evidence we have to the contrary?

Brian C. Duffy

Nice try and willfully ignorant as usual, little brain.

The fully vaxxed staff does not fear serious illness; they fear transmitting (asymptomatically) to the (mostly) unvaxxed kids. Believe or not, they do care about the students. You and your ilk resist the masks, the mandates, and the remote learning. Yes, you Trumplicans are responsible and should be denounced. Continually.

RedRidingHD

"New data out of New York state during the peak of the Omicron surge shows that child hospitalization rates are on the order of 1 in 100,000 if you are unvaccinated. If you are vaccinated, a child's risk is on the order of 2 to 3 per million,"

"We are coming up on two years of disrupted school, kids in masks, to think there is no harm there or no loss in socialization, no impact, I think is incorrect," he said. "The risk to kids is low and adults have had time to protect themselves with the vaccine."

Brian C. Duffy

Not better than everyone else, just everyone here.

RedRidingHD

I know it's hard for you to imagine Democrats going against the far-left takeover of our party that you so willfully embrace, but we are out here. Now tell me that you use your real name and how much better you are then everyone else because of it.

CEAGGY

Mr. “I use my real name so I am right in all matters”: You are saying the vaccinated can spread the virus, even when asymptomatic. I am glad to see you therefore must acknowledge the futility of vaccine mandates that are designed to stop the spread.

RedRidingHD

We should just change out the desks for restaurant tables. That way when the kids sit down they can take off their masks.

Brian C. Duffy

They do that now when they eat their snack or lunch. Are you really that dumb?

Joey

Genius!

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