Teachers call for delayed openings, staggered schedules, distance learning, and guaranteed funding to ensure healthy and safe schools for all.
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 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.
CEA’s Safe Learning Plan, released today, requires that health, safety, and equity remain at the forefront of any school reopening plan. It prioritizes strategies for student learning and educational equity, providing a safe way forward whether in school or through remote learning.
The plan calls for six specific actions that must be taken before schools reopen. Those actions focus on physical health and safety standards, combined with CDC protocols and commonsense approaches to keeping our school communities safe, including:
1. Delaying the opening of school if CDC and public health and safety requirements for schools cannot be met.
2. 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.
3. Recognizing and addressing the risks for students, teachers, and staff in school during a pandemic.
4. Understanding that moving the economy forward depends on the safety of schools, not just reopening schools.
5. 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.
6. Requiring weekly testing for all students, teachers, and staff, who return to school, and instituting contact tracing protocols.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our students, our educators, and our families safe,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “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 continued, “No one wants to return to school more than our dedicated educators, but during a global pandemic the health and safety of our students and educators must be our first priority.”
Our educators understand more than anyone the impact that a virus can have on a school community and how it can easily spread in classrooms with poor ventilation, windows that don’t open, and a lack of funding to ensure proper disinfecting and sanitizing stations. 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.
“It is undeniable that reopening Connecticut schools safely will cost significantly more than in pre-COVID times, and we must ensure that the state provides the funding needed in every school district, especially those in our poorest communities,” stressed Leake. “We can’t allow students living in high-poverty districts, students with special needs, and English learners to fall further behind. 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.”
CEA’s plan also highlights necessary partnerships that include businesses and other constituencies participating in solutions required for our state to recover, such as daycare and online mentoring. A workable plan must connect community partners where all—not just schools—share in meeting the responsibilities to our children. Moving the economy forward depends on the safety of schools, not on the mere reopening of schools.
### The Connecticut Education Association is Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union, representing active, retired, and aspiring educators across the state. For further information contact Nancy Andrews at 860-725-6317, firstname.lastname@example.org.