The Board of Education (BOE) Union Coalition, a group of labor unions that includes CEA, met virtually last night to outline next steps toward ensuring that the state protects the health and safety of students, staff, and community members amid the current COVID-19 surge.
Giving a recap of the group’s most recent efforts, CEA Executive Director Donald Williams noted that more than 14,000 individuals signed a petition demanding Safe and Successful Schools Now—a set of detailed recommendations put forth by the coalition. After the petition was presented to Governor Lamont, the governor’s chief of staff announced that a working group had been created to explore the coalition’s requests and demands, which include consistent safety and health protocols across all school districts, no staff layoffs, remote teaching options for educators who are quarantined or otherwise unable to teach in person, and regular COVID testing of students—particularly since, Williams noted, half of all known COVID cases are transmitted by individuals who are asymptomatic.
The coalition’s December 17 meeting, in fact, began with a moment of silence for Bridgeport paraeducator Eleanor DeShields, who lost her life as a result of COVID-19. A beloved staff member at Wilbur Cross Elementary School and a longtime caregiver for her 98-year-old mother, DeShields is believed to have contracted the virus at school, where cohorting and social distancing protocols were not being followed or adequately enforced.
The BOE Union Coalition, whose strategy is to overcome challenges through solidarity, plans to step up communications with the governor, including emails, phone calls, videos, op-eds, and invitations to spend the day with teachers in schools. Its recommendation for remote work options for teachers is supported by Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, who, in a letter to superintendents, wrote, “Amidst the pandemic, staff members may be unable to continue in-person employment—whether due to their own health condition, a recommendation for quarantine, or the need to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to the pandemic. Continuity of access to teachers with whom the child is familiar, including consistent paraeducator support, is crucial for the success of our students. One way to support student access is to grant flexibility to the greatest extent feasible to any staff member willing and able to work remotely while under quarantine.”
Learn more about Safe and Successful Schools Now and how you can be a part of the ongoing effort to make our schools safe.