HARTFORD – Governor Ned Lamont and the CT Department of Education released their 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:
I am thankful that Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona have started the conversation on what the fall “Back to School” plan will look like for our local schools.
Parents, teachers and school staff who are now following the Covid-19 infection rates in CT and across the country like some kind of stock market ticker. The apprehension I am hearing is incredibly telling for how confident they feel about a full return for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
Communication, flexibility and engaged local collaboration are going to be key in making sure everyone involved feels confident and protected in the first days of the new school year.
Some of the biggest concerns are logistics, financing and most importantly public health and safety.
What systems are being put in place to ensure safety on school busses?
How will classroom configurations look?
Are there going to be additional staff hired to support these new protocols and keep a predictive environment for students?
Who will be footing the bills to ready school buildings for the upcoming school year?
We must make sure our schools have all the support they will need: financial, logistical and including any physical construction cost reimbursements.
The outlined requirements will mean something different for every district and every school. I will be working with the municipalities that I serve to make sure these new requirements are workable. I will bring their challenges and concerns to the Commissioner and so these policies can be implemented in a way that is logistically and financially reasonable. Every school and shareholder should feel confident in reopening this fall.
Public health and safety for students, teachers and staff are non-negotiable. No parent wants to send his or her child into school to act as a test subject and see if the virus can still be contained. Neither teachers nor staff should put their health at risk doing what they love doing: teaching and caring for students.
Recognizing that virtual and home schooling are alternative options to “traditional” education settings, there are many questions that need to be addressed, clarified and proven to ensure a full and quality learning environment. Is a class room experience worth risking your students’ and our valued teachers’ health and emotional well-being? What kind of social emotional learning experience will these children have when confined to their desks and having to wear masks all day?
Additionally when it comes to implementing the state requirements, there is a clear difference between “getting local input” and “listening”. I am constantly engaged with local and state educational advocates and remain vigilant on the front line to get these conversations started and to advocate for towns’ educational excellence and ensure educational budgets are to be made whole as they prepare to take on all these additional costs.
Students, teachers, parents/caregivers and school officials alike need clear and consistent communication in logistics and public safety. Local input and flexibility to implementation are integral for any “back to school” plan to succeed.
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.