HARTFORD, CT — Teachers, parents, and one medical professional stood on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday to ask the state to slow down in-person learning and focus on using technology to get kids back to school.
Leslie Blatteau, a New Haven parent and teacher, said they are asking the state to put the brakes on in-person learning and invest in high-quality remote education.
“We are being told that too many students didn’t log on in the spring,” Blatteau said. “Excuse me. We were in a global pandemic in the spring and we still are in a global pandemic. That was an emergency transition to online learning and we did a heck of a job.”
Blatteau said if the state plans and properly funds remote learning then it can work better than it did in the spring. She said the state should use the money in the Rainy Day Fund for economic relief and child care subsidies for families.
The state has admitted that online learning was a struggle for many students.
“After schools closed last spring, 176,000 Connecticut students did not log on for a single day of distanced learning,” Rob Blanchard, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont, said. “Although we’ve since taken significant steps to equip students to learn from home, we also know that nothing compares to safe, high-quality, in-person education with the nation’s best teachers and other education professionals. Ensuring we do not have a lost year of education, the Lamont administration collaborated with public health and medical experts, educators and local school administration leaders to protect the health and safety of everyone who makes contact with our school system.”
Valerie Horsley, a professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University, said it’s not okay for Lamont to endorse going back to school five days a week.
Lamont and the state Education Department is allowing school districts to make up their own mind about whether they return in-person, online, or a hybrid of the two.
But the 75 people who attended the rally Wednesday were firmly against reopening in the fall.
“It’s not seeing the data and it’s not being the leader that we need in Connecticut,” Horsley, who campaigned for Lamont, said.
Horsley said, “This pathogen is not going to be contained until we have a vaccine.”
Lashawn Robinson, a parent in Hartford, said her five children won’t be returning to school because she doesn’t believe it’s safe.
“How are we going to send our kids back to school to a burning building?” Robinson said.
She said she doesn’t want anyone to go back to school and then bring COVID-19 back to their families.
Parents like Keren Prescott said the people making decisions about school reopenings don’t look like her and don’t live in a household with children and elderly parents.
“This is putting wealth over health,” Prescott said.
Jordan, her 9-year-old daughter, said she wants to go back to school to see her friends and her new teacher, but she can’t go back to school because it is not a safe place for her or her family.
She said she knows not going to school means she will have to try to learn remotely.
“This was really hard for me because I have anxiety and it felt like I was not learning anything. I used to like learning, but I lost a lot of confidence because learning through a computer is not the same as learning in person,” she added.
Dr. Rob Byer, an emergency room physician and a father, said his children will not be going back to school.
“Asymptomatic children will spread this virus,” Byer said. “If we let the virus back out now all the hard work we’ve done was for naught.”
Byer said science is frustrating because it’s constantly changing as new things are learned, but what they know is if schools reopen, “some of your kids will get sick and some of them will get very sick.”
He said right now there’s no way to know which children are asymptomatic.
He said the decision to reopen schools was made because “we’re impatient.”
He said the CDC guidelines for social distance, masks, and cleaning are nice, but teachers and parents know they won’t be able to follow them as strictly as they would like in schools.
“If we slow down school reopenings we can save lives,” Byer said. “And if you insist on reopening why not get the teachers the proper equipment that they need to be safe?” Byer said.
Byer suggested that teachers get N-95 masks.