Governor Lamont yesterday recommended that Connecticut end its statewide mask mandate for schools after February 28, leaving the decision up to local districts at that point. Today the legislature took up the issue and CEA gave voice to teachers’ perspectives. CEA President Kate Dias shared the results of a recent survey of members with legislators during a public hearing this morning.
“Just over half of our members–55%–favor a mask requirement. Forty percent are ready for the mask mandate to end, and 5% are not sure,” Dias said. “The majority of educators favor state- level control for the masking decision, to be made by the Department of Public Health, based on the science. Fifty-nine percent of members want DPH to make the determination about masks based on statewide data, 32% do not agree with that procedure, and 9% are unsure.”
Dias said that if masking were to become optional in schools, 62% of educators indicated that they will continue to mask up, and 38% will not.
“Ultimately, this means we should be looking for a statewide, science-based decision that reflects the needs of our school employees and the deep desire to keep our schools open. Here we are, mere weeks beyond a 30% positivity rate. We need to keep in mind is that a high positivity rate means teachers and students are missing from classrooms because they have COVID,” Dias continued.
She said that the CEA survey clearly indicated that all educators care deeply about their students, their communities, and their families. “We hear that loudly from all sides of this debate. Despite some of the awful things people have said to all of us in this last week, the truth is that we all want the same thing; we just believe the answer is different. We should be able to disagree, without insults, and find a solution that relies on science, not opinion.”
Unlike many workplaces, classrooms are crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, and vaccination rates among children are much lower than among the general population. Educators report that they are still overworked from covering extra classes for colleagues who are out due to COVID. Mitigation strategies such as masking keep schools open and educators available to educate, Dias said.
“We are asking for a couple of real things,” she told legislators. “First, a science-based decision. One that relies on the Department of Public Health and CDC to establish standards based on when vaccination rates are high enough, positivity is low enough, and hospital rates are stable enough to deem masks optional. Second, a little time so that the weather is warm enough for us to open windows in our classrooms.”
She concluded, “We expect that whatever rules you feel are safe enough for Connecticut’s public school students, teachers, and staff will certainly be safe enough for Connecticut’s legislators.”
Nearly 10,000 CEA members responded to the recent CEA survey on masking in schools. Now it’s time for our legislators to hear directly from you before they vote on Thursday.