The Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) today released interim guidance for remote learning for the 2021-22 school year that ends the mandate to provide a voluntary remote learning option for all students, raises concerns about dual instruction, and stresses that in-person education is best for students. The legislature is currently considering bills that call for standards associated with virtual learning that could change remote learning requirements.
CEA leaders, who had urged the SDE to provide this clarity to districts as they make plans for next school year, offered input on the document and say it moves our state in the right direction. Educators teaching remotely this year have experienced numerous issues with technology, difficulty keeping students engaged, and, in many cases, the impossibility of balancing the needs of in-person and remote learners. The Ellington Board of Education has already voted not to offer a remote learning option for the 2021-22 school year.
The SE guidance states,
There is no current requirement under Connecticut or federal law that after the period of emergency this school year, school districts are mandated to provide all students voluntary daily access to remote learning at the unilateral request of the student/family. The requirement that school districts provide temporary remote learning opportunities for all parents and students provided in the Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together, and Addendum 1, Temporarily Opting into Voluntary Remote Learning Due to COVID-19 will no longer be in place after this school year.
At this time, DPH and CSDE do not anticipate the need to mandate, due to public health necessity, that all school districts provide an option for students and their families to opt-in to a voluntary remote option after this school year.
The document goes on to state that, although there is no requirement that remote learning be provided to any student whose family requests it, districts are permitted to use remote learning judiciously going forward. Some of the possible uses for remote learning listed include to offer specialized classes not available in a student’s home district, in support of learning acceleration, to provide for the potential need for a classroom to quarantine, or during emergency building-related issues.
The SDE guidance also address the concerns CEA members have raised repeatedly this year regarding dual instruction. The document states, “Conversations with stakeholders also include discussion about limitations on the use of remote learning, such as consideration of concerns raised about requiring educators to provide instruction simultaneously to in-person and remote student groups.”