Members of educators unions went to Hartford Thursday morning to deliver a petition to call on the governor to implement recommendations from the “Safe and Successful Schools Now” report and shift to all remote learning unless “stronger protections are in place” amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
They came together to call on the state to maintain, enforce and establish consistent statewide protocol for safety in schools amid the pandemic.
Connecticut schools shifted to distance in March, early in the pandemic, but schools have since reopened and some are holding in-person classes, while others are hybrid or remote.
Gov. Ned Lamont has expressed a desire to keep schools open and students in school to learn in person for as long as possible.
“We find that the level of risk in our schools can be unacceptable and it greatly varies from what was promised last fall,” Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1727 and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, said.
Leaders from the Board of Education Union Coalition held the news conference and unrolled a petition they said was signed by nearly 14,000 education and community members in response to the state not taking specific actions to keep students and school staff safe as the pandemic continues.
“This petition represents an unfortunate last resort. No one is pleased or satisfied at signing this petition, but it represents the feelings and interests of over 14,000 educators and support staff across the state of Connecticut,” Yordon said.
Speakers said in-person learning is important, but they addressed concerns about risks and being susceptible to the virus. While many families have the choice for children to be in school or learn remotely, school staff don't always have that option, they said.
They also called for consistent statewide safety protocols.
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As of Wednesday, the state's coronavirus positivity rate was 7.56 percent.
The petition is addressed to the governor and the education commissioner.
“With surging infection rates and vaccines for the general public not available until after the new year, the state muth shift to full-time remote learning until at least min-January to ensure that in-person learning is a safe strategy for our students and our teachers, not an experiment, not a gamble,” Jeff Leake, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said.
Shellye Davis, co-president of the Hartford Federation of Paraeducators, AFT Local 2221 and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, said the data suggests that schools should be remote or at least hybrid.
“We are here today because every district and local health department has approached reopening buildings differently this year. It’s troublesome that we do not have an equitable or transparent approach in keeping schools, students and staff safe,” Davis said. “State leaders should have provided more than guidance and support, but also consistency where it matters to all of us from day one.”
Cynthia Ross-Zweig, paraeducator council president of CSEA SEIU Local 2001, said in-person learning is best for students, but unprecedented circumstances force an alternate path to ensure health and safety and she showed a map of the state showing how many cities and towns are in the red zone due to spread of coronavirus.
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