When Darien schools opened in the fall, the district assured families and staff that it would be guided by health and safety metrics, but Darien teachers say the district has departed from that path.
“Though the members of the Darien Education Association support the premise of a gradual return to in-person learning in the middle and high schools, we fear that this current plan poses a serious public health risk to students, faculty, staff, and their families at a time when COVID-19 infection rates are surging in both the town and Fairfield County, and newer, potentially more lethal strains of the virus are spreading,” the Darien Education Association wrote in an op-ed published in The Darien Times.
The district this week began a staggered return for secondary students who had previously been following a hybrid model—the entire senior and eighth grade classes returned on Monday.
In response, Darien teachers are holding a “black-out” this week. School staff members are wearing black, working only contractual hours, and entering and leaving the buildings in a unified fashion at the beginning and end of the day.
High school teacher Jennifer Ladd told the Board of Education during a meeting last night that the district decided to move to a hybrid mode for secondary students back in November when the town had an infection rate of 13.5 cases per 100,000. Now with an infection rate of 56.5 per 100,000 the district is phasing students back into full in-person learning.
“All of the indicators are now worse,” Ladd said. “The decision to bring all seniors back to the high school on Monday did not cite any health metrics.”
“We find ourselves again in a position where we are forced to play tug of war with our commitment to our students and Darien Public Schools and with our need to ensure our own safety and fight for the proper respect and care from our upper administration,” Darien Education Association President Joslyn Delancey wrote in a letter to members.
In the Darien teachers’ op-ed they wrote, “Since January 16, Darien High School alone has seen more than 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including nine in a single day. On Thursday and Friday, the high school had more than 60 students and staff in quarantine because of exposure; another thirty-six will have to quarantine starting Monday. All of this has occurred while Middlesex and DHS are still in hybrid mode.”
Ladd pointed out that the scientific community is still scrambling to understand the long-term effects of COVID—on children and adults alike.
“Your responsibility extends beyond academics,” she told the Board.