“Nobody is more excited than teachers to be back to school,” CEA President Kate Dias told reporters at Governor Ned Lamont’s Back-to-School Roundtable, held today at Highland Elementary School in Cheshire.
The roundtable discussion, moderated by Cheshire Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Solan, featured leaders and stakeholders in education and public health, including Dias (third from right in the photo above), Governor Ned Lamont, Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford, Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Fran Rabinowitz, and others.
Stakeholders agreed that keeping schools open to full in-person learning this coming school year is a shared goal and that following masking, vaccination, and other public health protocols is key to ensuring that can happen safely.
“While other states are sending kids home to quarantine, we are here to see how we can keep our schools open,” the governor said.
Gifford stressed universal masking in school buildings and on school buses through at least September 30, as outlined in the governor’s executive order, and added that federal funding would enable improvements to indoor air quality in schools, such as air conditioning, which she said contributes to “a quality instructional environment.”
Federal dollars would also allow for better student support services in every district, Rabinowitz noted.
Russell-Tucker strongly emphasized the need for social emotional and mental health supports, including the hiring of additional school staff, “an audacious goal” that she said would benefit students and educators alike.
Asked about teachers’ perspectives on returning to school, CEA’s Dias said, “What you all should know is that teachers are ready. These are really rock-solid professionals who are trained to navigate the uncharted waters of recovering from the pandemic. They showed their tenacity and perseverance last year, and I would expect nothing less in the coming year. You’re going to see amazing things. I think back to a year and a half ago, and our ability to adjust, reflect, and respond is what makes teachers in Connecticut truly exceptional. That’s what you have before you.”
Dias explained that she and CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey have been visiting schools across the state ahead of reopening.
“I was in Old Saybrook this morning welcoming new teachers, I was in Granby for their convocation, we’ve been down to Stamford, which has 160 new teachers—so it has been a busy, busy time in education. And as we go to all of these schools and touch base, the consistent message across the board is, ‘Let’s get going.’ There is such an eagerness and enthusiasm among teachers, who will do whatever it takes to make this school year really work for students. They’re willing to make sacrifices of their own time and resources to make sure kids come back to places where they can feel safe, they can feel supported, and they can feel loved. “
To Russell-Tucker’s point, Dias noted, “We’ve seen additional staff added to support students’ social emotional learning. In Windsor, they have started a tiered intervention program on social emotional learning. So there’s a lot of thought going into what can we do to make kids feel safe, secure, and ready to learn, because I think we all recognize that the social emotional is a component of what we want—it’s the foundation—and what we want is to get kids in the classroom excited to learn. I’m a math teacher, so I try to make people enthusiastic about the quadratic formula—not an easy task!—but let me tell you, I have a few songs, and I have a few tricks. This is what teachers do.”