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Coalition of education unions calling for policy change regarding COVID-19 cases in school

The coalition of unions representing more than 60,000 public educators sent a letter to the state Wednesday.

CONNECTICUT, USA — A coalition representing more than 60,000 Connecticut public educators released a letter to the calling for the implementation of certain policies.  

The coalition cited multiple schools across the state that have had cases of COVID-19 in their classrooms. Each district has handled the cases differently. 

“[Teachers] are struggling to maintain safety, follow the protocols and at the same time teach our children,” said Donald Williams, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association.  

The teacher’s unions are asking the state to install the federal CDC and state health department guidelines to assure more consistency and safety for all who enter the school.  

“That’s critical if we are going to protect safety in our communities and not reignite the virus in Connecticut,” said Williams.  

The CEA believes that inconstancies with contact tracing and quarantining are leaving teachers stuck in limbo or out of the classroom entirely.  

“When they quarantine for two weeks, we ought to let them teach remotely so that their students have the continuity and education from their own teacher,” said Williams.  

The coalition released a document last month recommending 13 necessary protocols to protect students and facility members. On Wednesday they called again on that document.  

“While we understand each school district is unique, the state must provide specific protocols that districts must follow when someone tests positive for the virus, including providing detailed information to parents and teachers,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “The absence of consistent guidelines and adherence to protocols is evident in many districts, as is a lack of quality PPE and CDC-approved disinfecting and cleaning supplies. Without state mandates, transparency, and open communication, districts are jeopardizing the health and safety of entire school communities.” 

The CT Department of Education responded Wednesday afternoon with a written statement saying in part: 

"It’s disappointing to hear from those who represent our teachers at this stage of the school year as we are seeing so few cases in our school buildings and many schools remaining open. It is clear that the recommended mitigation and monitoring strategies in place are working. We are seeing our students, educators, and school staff happy to return to school, wearing masks, and following protocols. The reopening of schools in a Connecticut with students is a success story thanks to the tremendous planning and collaboration that is happening at the district-level but unfortunately that success is not being reported nearly as much." 

The CSDE sys the guidelines already in place serve as clear statewide process for dealing with COVID-19 in schools. They cited Addendum 4, Addendum 5, and Addendum 9 as examples. They say a one-size-fits-all plan wouldn’t always work because every case is different.  

“The size of the school matters. Who that person was in contact with matters and I don’t want that information ignored,” said Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.  

The Department of Education says the facts on the ground and how quickly contact tracing can be done are two of the biggest factors at play when deciding to stay open or not.  

“I have complete confidence in the local health departments and superintendent’s abilities to assess the situation and make the best decision to promote health and safety for the entire community,” said Cardona.  

Cardona has been happy with how well local administrations have handled the cases. They say it will only get better going forward.  

He also mentioned the importance of the community continuing to mitigate the spread of the virus outside of the classroom to allow students to continue to learn in it.