Support core principals aligned with CEA recommendations
Unions across the state have joined together calling for reopening schools in person only if districts can guarantee that physical safety protocols can be met to keep students, teachers, and staff safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The coalition of unions, representing more than 60,000 staff employed by school boards across the state, today released 13 standards that align with the recommendations in CEA’s Safe Learning Plan, released last week, to ensure safety, equity, and adequate funding for all Connecticut’s school districts. The union standards and CEA’s recommendations assure that safety is the top priority and that all districts comply with CDC guidelines or move to distance learning.
“We need to make sure our district and state officials understand that nothing is more important than the safety of our school communities,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “As we anticipate the resurgence of COVID-19 here in Connecticut, CEA stands in full support with other unions, parents, and educators who oppose school buildings opening before they are safe.”
Reopening schools poses unprecedented challenges, and how they are addressed varies from district to district. The 13 standards and CEA’s recommendations outline what schools need to do to prepare for safe reopening and how they can make sure schools don’t become incubators for COVID-19 and can remain open beyond just the first few weeks of the new school year.
At a virtual press conference this morning, paraprofessionals, custodians, bus drivers, and teachers from six local unions shared their concerns regarding safety and the need to implement the standards to keep everyone safe.
Teachers want more than anything to get back into the classroom, but reopening plans must be done safely and cautiously to prevent outbreaks of the virus in our school communities, said Darien teacher Katy Gale, a member of CEA’s Board of Directors who participated in today’s news conference.
“We know we can’t put hundreds of students into small, crowded classrooms with poor ventilation and without adequate safety procedures in place to prevent an outbreak and school closures, but that’s exactly what many districts will be doing,” said Gale.
She added, “The nightmares our teachers are having about going back to school end with a student or family member becoming gravely ill or dying,” said Gale. “My own nightmare is the one where I am looking down on one of my 11-year-old students who has become unraveled hearing the news of my death. I can’t console my student. We have to get this right. We must reopen safely.”
The union protocols are rooted in medical studies and scientific research and follow critical new medical reports and scientific findings regarding the spread of COVID-19, particularly as to school-age children. Research shows children of all ages can contract and spread the virus to adults and other children, becoming superspreaders of COVID-19.
“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of students, educators, and their families. Schools must be safe, guided by science, and aligned with the safety protocols established by the unions. Any schools unable to fulfill CDC protocols, including six-foot social distancing, contact tracing, testing, and more, should do distance learning,” added Leake.
The unions urge districts to open schools the right way—and not risk reversing the progress Connecticut has made in controlling the spread of the virus.