HARTFORD – Thursday, July 9, 2020 – CT State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona hosted a webinar to enable education leaders and public officials to ask questions and offer input on the released 50 page “Comprehensive” Plan outlining expectations for a full time return to school recommendation for the entire state. Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) offered the following statement afterwards:
I am thankful that CT SDE Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona and his staff provided an opportunity to communicate with stakeholders on the protocols and ideals for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. I joined and hoped to actively participate in the webinar but found the format offered limited input and opportunity to ask questions. While I am hopeful for more of these meetings and that future communications will be more specific and provide much needed answers to ongoing questions, My district constituents cannot afford to wait, as they need to properly plan. And, we are already less than 2 months away from the start of Fall School year.
In the past weeks, I have heard feedback from differing viewpoints ranging from “excitement for going back to school” to worries about “how can I send my child to school with so much uncertainty” to the practicality of “why are masks required in combination with social distancing and cohorting?”
Beyond opinions, there are serious concerns of logistics, financing and most importantly ensuring student, teacher and staff health and safety. CT SDE needs to provide clarification on a number of key questions and quell the anxieties due to the vague or uncertain aspects of a full return to school this fall.
I am writing to Commissioner Cardona to request a specific “back to school’ meeting, and at that meeting I will bring forward the questions I’ve received from parents, educators, local town leaders, Boards of Education and Superintendents. The school districts I represent need a better understanding of the plan from the executive branch and CT SDE needs to provide answers to important concerns.
Some key questions that need specific answers from my observations are:
– What are the follow up guidelines if someone at school is Covid positive, like what just happened at Norwalk Summer School last week? How will parents/caregivers be notified of a local reported infection?
– Will there be a specific reimbursement formula and defined funding source for municipalities facing the additional financial cost of ‘properly and logistically’ creating a safe and healthy environment?
– If conditions change after the school year has begun, how will parents/caregivers be notified of a local reported infection? What will SDE and local school be doing to help districts prepare for a move to online learning?
-What decisions have been made regarding higher risk activities like physical education, chorus/music ensembles, and sports?
I can appreciate the challenges the CT SDE is facing trying to put forth a clear, specific plan when the stakes are truly unknown. Fears of a second wave of the virus this fall are possible and troubling, and we need to listen to local educational shareholders as decisions are made and modified in the best interests of our students and school staff.
The safety of students, teachers and staff and the peace of mind of parents are not negotiable.
State Senator Tony Hwang represents the 28th Senate District in the Connecticut General Assembly. Hwang is Deputy Minority Senate Leader and the ranking legislative leader on the Public Safety and Security Committee and Higher Education & Employment Committees and also serves as a member of the Transportation Committee.