Courtesy of SDE

The results of a teacher survey from the state about reopening schools in the fall was much different than a new teachers’ union survey that says most educators prefer a mixture of in-person and remote learning.

The state survey found that 81% of teachers and other staff expect to return for in-person learning in the fall.

The Connecticut Education Association surveyed 16,000 of its members and found 74% oppose plans to fully reopen schools without the necessary protections for students and educators.

The survey conducted last week found 16% of teachers would prefer to return to classrooms full-time in the fall, 39% support a hybrid approach, and nearly half—or 46%—of educators favor continued distance learning.

“We need to listen to the concerns of our educators, parents, community members, and health experts during a life-threatening pandemic,” CEA President Jeff Leake said. “We can’t expect to reopen our schools in a usual fashion, especially  as new evidence demonstrates that school-age children ten years and older spread the virus as readily as adults.”  

There’s already confusion about where the state stands on the model that districts should employ in the fall.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s remarks on Monday made school superintendents question whether five days of in-person learning was the route the state wanted them to take. His remarks made them think he prefers the hybrid model of in-person and remote learning.

Lamont tried to clarify the issue Wednesday at an unrelated press conference.

“We said early on that we thought it was really important that kids get back into the classroom,” Lamont said Wednesday. He said particularly for the lower grades, K-5, “we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to make sure they’re in the classroom.”

He said the high schools will likely be more of a hybrid model because it’s tougher to cohort the older students. But there’s no definitive answer as to what school districts will do.

“I think right now we’re sorting that out,” Lamont said. “We’re going to work in collaboration with the superintendents.”

Lamont insisted they’ve always done things in collaboration with school districts and have never told them what to do.

“As long as the rates stay low, you’re going to have a mix of some classroom and some hybrid as I’ve just described,” Lamont said. “If the rates go up, if they get up to 10%, I think we’d have a strong recommendation that you close those schools.”

However, the state isn’t going to force the schools to do anything.

The issue has been frustrating to teachers and school superintendents throughout the state.

Meanwhile, some parents prefer the hybrid model.

AnnMarie Sarbello, who volunteered to serve on the reopening committee for Shepaug Valley School where her son will be a junior this year, favors a hybrid model that would reduce the number of students in classes, as well as on buses, in hallways and at lunch.

Teachers, she said, would still have the in-classroom opportunity to help students struggling with distance learning, and to develop plans to help those students both in school and remotely. She said she would consider holding her son out of school if she doesn’t like the local plan.

“Unfortunately, the full model greatly increases everyone’s exposure,” more than what the state allows for indoor dining, businesses or grocery stores, said Sarbello, a certified teacher who works at an elementary school library. “We should certainly hold our schools and the safety of our children and educators to an equal, if not higher, standard.”