“Our members and their students deserve stable and safe learning environments,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “That will take immediate, proactive measures, considering the virus’ surge across the state. New, more stringent safety standards and protocols that reflect the situation we’re in are key to enabling in-person learning after the holiday break,” she added.
for press reporting on Connecticut’s current record rate of infection.
Coalition leaders are urging state officials to:
- Adopt new, more aggressive testing protocols to closely monitor students and teachers before they enter our schools, to include temperature readings before entry and prohibition to anyone exhibiting symptoms;
- Provide cost-free access to COVID-19 testing at all schools, including weekly pool testing;
- Provide N95 masks and in-home test kits to all school districts for distribution to students and school staff;
- Require N95 masks be worn in school by all staff;
- Continue with other established mitigation efforts including social distancing, no large group gatherings, and improved ventilation;
- Prohibit the combining of classes due to staff shortages (if the combined class results in mixed cohort);
- Prohibit the unsuccessful practice of dual teaching;
- Provide access to COVID-19 vaccinations at all schools; and
- Ensure that staff do not have to use their sick time during quarantine periods.
“Our call for action is a response to specific needs for a specific period and with specific outcomes,” said Mary Yordon (above), AFT Connecticut vice president for PreK-12 educators. “It should be limited to classrooms or buildings or a district where there are extremely high quarantines, staff or student absences. Failure to act now is simply failure,” added Yordon, who also serves as president of our affiliated Norwalk Federation of Teachers.
The coalition’s original principles were in August of 2020 announced before the first attempt to resume in-person learning in Connecticut’s public schools since the start of the pandemic. They were further updated that fall in a collective report as a second surge of infections gripped the state.
for our December, 2020 report back on continued efforts to demand safe schools.
“This latest wave is making last winter’s look like little more than a dress rehearsal,” said Shellye Davis, our federation’s vice president for paraprofessionals and school support personnel (PSRPs). “Absences among teachers, paras, bus drivers and other essential school staff will likely be worse this time. That’s going to mean heavier workloads for our members and more disruptions to student learning,” added Davis, who also serves as president of our Hartford Federation of Paraeducators.
As certified teachers and support staff prepare to welcome their students back to school after a much-needed break, they need partners in ensuring a safe, healthy return.