A day after Stratford teachers held a rally to protest against a plan that would have had students back in school four days a week for in-person learning, the district is changing course and going all remote through December 4, with a plan to return to a hybrid model after that point.
“It’s a very positive move,” said Stratford Education Association President Michael Fiorello. “It’s sensible and based on what we know will happen with students and our families and travel plans over Thanksgiving.”
On Monday afternoon more than 100 Stratford teachers holding signs with messages like, “Safe Schools Save Lives” and “Let’s Be Smart: Six Feet Apart,” formed socially distanced lines on both sides of Main Street outside town hall, where Stratford’s Board of Education met later that evening.
“I’m so proud of all our teachers who showed up Monday afternoon,” said SEA Vice President Kristen Record. “We appreciate the community support and are glad the superintendent listened and made a commonsense decision.”
Stratford was originally set to have elementary schools go to a four-day-a-week model Monday, November 16, but an SEA letter-writing campaign to the superintendent slowed down the phase-in plan, implementing full in-person learning for kindergarten and first grade only. Plans to phase in many more students to four days a week of in-person learning continued, however, which Fiorello said would have done away with social distancing at a time when COVID cases were rising and the district has been denying remote teaching requests by vulnerable teachers.
In addition to the rally and letter writing campaign, to draw attention to the need for safer learning conditions Stratford teachers had also engaged in collective action by reducing their work hours to no more than what is required under their contract. Teachers usually plan early in the morning and grade late into the night but temporarily stopped working those extra hours to emphasize the need to keep students and teachers safe.
Union members are particularly pleased that in her letter to the school community the superintendent signaled that remote learning could continue past December 7 if the number of COVID cases in town warrants it.
“We have been urging all along that decisions be made based on safety reasons,” Fiorello said. “The December 7 planned return date gives us time to track the numbers to see if there are any spikes. Let’s hope there aren’t.”