With the start of the 2022-2023 school year less than a month away for most districts, state education leaders and public health officials have announced details of a plan—Launching into Healthy Learning—that aims to maximize in-person learning. The plan provides recommendations, tools, and strategies to reduce learning disruptions and help school districts keep students and staff safely in school.
Key provisions include
- On-site, mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics for all 36 Alliance School Districts, offering primary and booster vaccine doses to anyone six months of age or older
- Free self-test kits to be distributed to all schools and early childhood education programs
- A test-mask-go strategy that allows students and staff with mild respiratory symptoms to remain in school as long as they test negative for COVID, are fever-free, wear a mask, and do not live with someone who has had COVID in the past two weeks
“I look at this school year and think, we’ve come a long way,” said CEA President Kate Dias, speaking at a press conference unveiling the new guidance today. “We are really looking at going back into the classroom with a mindset of flexibility, of understanding, of recognizing where are the points of flexibility we have to have, and what are the points we have to be concerned about. We look forward to working with our partners at the district level in making good decisions that keep us in school but do so safely. What I’m happy to see is how many of our districts are having those conversations with our teacher leaders.”
In the last two years, Dias added, “We’ve learned that you will not keep school doors open without working together.”
Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker both emphasized the value of teacher input in developing Connecticut’s school reopening policies.
Russell-Tucker acknowledged that in creating back-to-school guidance, it was imperative to “hear from those who will be implementing that policy. We know that the best place for children to be is in school, and the guidance today makes that possible.”
Juthani agreed. “We recognize that kids need to be in the classroom. We have learned from our education colleagues how important that is.” Teachers, she added, are the key to keeping students learning. The widespread availability and understanding of COVID prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, she noted, make it possible to move away from previous stay-at-home mandates that applied to anyone with potential COVID exposure or mild COVID-like symptoms, which often mimic those of colds or seasonal allergies. A test-mask-go strategy—which is optional for schools—allows for greater in-person attendance and the benefits in-person learning brings to children’s social and emotional well-being and academic achievement.
AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel also welcomed the new guidance and credited Russell-Tucker for holding weekly meetings to hear from teachers’ unions about what’s working in schools and what educators and students need. The previous school year, she recalled, was marked by anxiety and apprehension, with ongoing concerns about the potential for getting sick or having to pivot to hybrid or dual instruction.
“This year, we have new tools and guidance,” she said.
Dias agreed. “As we enter this school year, it’s not with the same level of anxiousness. Are we aware and still concerned about some of our indoor air quality issues? Absolutely. Are we anxious about school staffing? Absolutely. But do we have the same sort of panic about COVID? I don’t think so. We’re concerned, but mindful, and that’s the appropriate way to be attacking this disease at this time. Thankfully, Connecticut is doing all the right things, and I’m proud to be a part of this work. I’m proud to be here working with these individuals to ensure schools open successfully, our students have a wonderful experience, and our teachers and staff are completely safe in executing their primary duties, because we’re excited to be doing that.”