Some Connecticut teachers wore black and others wore red Wednesday, representing how teachers believe schools should move forward with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both groups, however, agree the best place for students is in a classroom at school.
The Connecticut Education Association is among several groups asking for teachers to wear black in a call for more safety measures to keep students in school, such as more face masks, at-home COVID-19 tests and the option to go to remote learning for short periods of time.
Ellington High School Teacher Aaron Hoffman is calling on teachers to wear red, calling for fewer mitigation strategies and no remote learning option.
Teachers in Windsor said they face several issues, including staff shortages, and teachers are not getting at-home COVID-19 tests. If they have to be tested, they have to go to the school nurse.
As students entered school in Windsor Wednesday, teachers wearing black held signs.
“We’re really here to bring attention to all the hard work that our educators are doing. We have kept our schools open, we have shown up every single day and we want the support of the masks and the tests that we’ve been promised,” Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said.
She said while things are going very well in some places, that is not universal.
“We don’t want to return to full remote anywhere for a long-term approach. That’s damaging to not just students, but it’s damaging to the adults as well,” Dias said in a prior interview.
She said that means more at-home COVID tests, masks and the ability to go remote.
“It is for short-term opportunities to provide either relief or continued instruction when there’s a reduction in staff and I think we recognize that long-term remote is nobody’s first choice,” Dias said.
Dias added that they are not advocating for any lengthy period of remote learning.
“We recognize that in-person learning is a priority but we also need to be flexible,” Dias said.
She doesn’t see the call by Hoffman as much different.
“I think anyone who shows up in red on Wednesday is really messaging on point with us that what we are asking for is respectfully keeping kids in school in a safe manner,” Dias said.
Hoffman said remote learning “at this point is a slippery slope and the slippery slope is we learned remote learning was not a positive experience for kids in our state.”
He said they need to return to normal.
“We have significant signs of kids who are struggling with mental health and anxiety as a result of the last two years. Their education has been disrupted multiple times,” he says. “The remote learning needs to not be an option and continues to not be an option so districts need to figure out how to keep in-person learning happening.”
Gov. Ned Lamont agrees.
“There’s no better choice than a great teacher in a Connecticut classroom,” he said.
“We have distributed over a million tests to the schools, often through municipalities, so you’ve got that last mile to get them to the schools,” Lamont said Wednesday.
He said there have been millions of N95 masks and the state prioritized schools.
He said he has to make sure that teachers, educators and parents are confident to get children to the classroom safely.
Lamont has said he doesn’t want to take opportunities away from students to be in the classroom but he does want to make sure it’s done safely.
More than 7,600 students were out with COVID last week.
“We’re in a pandemic and there’s a lot of infections, fortunately, milder repercussions, but um that doesn’t mean you’re not cautious. But that doesn’t mean we deny kids the opportunity to be in a classroom as long as we can keep them there safely,” Lamont said.