On the very first day that Stratford moved from hybrid to four days a week of in-person learning for kindergarteners and first graders a kindergarten class is being forced to go remote until December 1 due to a positive COVID case. All together the district saw 11 new COVID cases today at five different schools, supporting teachers’ warnings that full in-person learning is unwise as cases spike across Fairfield County.
“We as teachers have often been told to make our educational decisions based on data, and we asked the district to do the same,” said Stratford High School teacher and local president Michael Fiorello. “The data do not justify a loosening of mitigation protocols.”
Stratford had been slated to bring all elementary students back four days a week, but after teachers sent more than 100 letters to the superintendent, Board of Education chair and vice-chair, and the town’s mayor, the school district amended its plans.
Stratford’s recent case rate was 28.6 per 100,000—higher than that of Milford and Shelton, districts that have recently decided to go fully remote for some or all schools into January. According to the State Department of Education, any rate over 25 per 100,000 indicates that districts should consider less in-person learning.
“While other places of work and business are imposing stricter guidelines, you are choosing to do the opposite and putting all of our lives at stake,” a teacher wrote. “You and the town are still holding meetings virtually—somehow, that just doesn’t seem right.”
“I want my kids to be able to come into my room, sit two at a table, and share their crayons and hug me every morning and walk outside for recess and play with each other,” Robin Julian, a kindergarten teacher who serves as a vice president for her local association told News 8. “We’re not there yet in the world. I’m so afraid we’re going to go back with kindergarten and [first grade] and it’s going to shut down the entire district because there’s going to be some kind of major case.”
So far this year Stratford has employed a hybrid model where students attend school two days a week and learn remotely the other three.
“Having the kids with us two days a week may not be perfect, but it is better than nothing,” a teacher wrote. “Moving to an all-in model will result in a full shut down and distance learning for everybody. The hybrid model is working…. barely. Right now we have four schools distance learning either because of quarantining or staffing issues. How will having more students in our buildings improve things?”
Another teacher commented, “We are preparing to implement this 4-day plan in the midst of the holiday season when family and community gatherings are abundant. So, students will be pushed through this big transition, and then again when we have to transition to full-remote because of the inevitable spread of COVID with this change of capacity.”
“My class will be eating lunch in the classroom,” wrote an elementary teacher. “This will mean that 18 students will be sitting too close together due to lack of space for adequate social distancing without their masks on for 30 minutes each day. Their barrier boards will be on their desks, but they do not sit with their heads over the desks, especially during lunch. When they turn and talk with their friends, they will be doing it in an open environment with no masks worn, and in close proximity. I have not been told that the classroom will be cleaned after lunch, so all of those germs spread without masks on will linger in the classroom for the remainder of the day where students will continue to sit.”
In another letter a teacher shared that safety protocols are not currently sufficient to protect the school community. “We are not testing students—even when they have been home with family members who have tested positive for COVID. It is shocking that a student can return to class without being tested. I do not feel safe!”
“While many other schools are continuing with hybrid or even moving to full distance learning, why are we deciding now to go all in? I beg you to reconsider,” a teacher wrote. “This is not a safe plan nor is it the right time to even be drafting a plan when everything is in the unknown. Why not try to keep the students in hybrid as long as possible, and do what has been working? I am a teacher, I love my kids, and wish nothing more than to have them all back with me full time. However, based on the numbers and how things are going, now is not the correct time.”