Schools Forced to Go Remote Due to Staffing Issues

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Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and in-person learning is suffering. More people in quarantine is impacting teachers and staff across Connecticut.

“I didn’t think we’d make it to October 1, I didn’t think we’d make it to Columbus Day, I didn’t think we’d make it to Election Day,” said Ansonia Public Schools Superintendent Joseph DiBacco.

Three of four Ansonia schools were closed on Thursday when DiBacco announced they’ll go fully remote until January 18. He said their biggest challenge is staffing.

“We’re not doing something that’s convenient. This is a very difficult decision for the community,” said DiBacco.

Ansonia is now among Bridgeport, Shelton, West Haven, Milford, and Waterbury that are closing some or all of their schools for weeks at a time. Hamden Public Schools has delayed making a decision. For the second time this week, the high school was closed Thursday due to staffing.

“If it means schools have to be closed and online – you have to go online to protect safety -- I believe we should do that, it’s a smart move in my opinion,” said Trevor Hudak of Ansonia.

The decision is weighed against students’ social and emotional classroom needs.

“Commissioner Cardona in his letter to us superintendents, he’s absolutely correct,” said DiBacco. “There’s nothing better than in-person instruction, social emotionally, educationally and also the nutritional needs of our students.”

While some are grappling with how to close, New Haven deals with never having opened. Mayor Justin Elicker said the city missed a “real opportunity” when cases were low.

“It was safe for us to do that in September, it’s no longer safe for us to do that,” said Elicker. “It breaks my heart to know that there’s so many kids that are not engaging in our remote learning system. It’s much better than it was in the spring and I give the teachers credit for putting together a solid remote learning system.”

In an apparent letter to superintendents, state education officials are stressing that while COVID-19 are on the rise, school districts should do their best not to disrupt in-person learning unless absolutely necessary.

He added that “this is an educational loss that we’re going to experience for years to come.”

DiBacco has concerns over remote learning as well.

“I genuinely worry about going remote because I think students become disengaged through remote learning,” said Dibacco.

The district said students have laptops and tablets, mobile hotspots and offers for discounts on internet service. He hopes parents can be involved in students’ at-home learning.

“Our families really encourage our students to log in and complete the work because we have a lot of our students logging in, but I’d like to see the work completion as well.”

The district has plans for meal distributions and DiBacco said he’s in talks with local groups to help create learning hubs.

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