As of Monday night there were 369 people signed up to testify at today’s public hearing on Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders.
The orders are set to expire on Feb. 15 and lawmakers are debating whether to extend them. The most controversial of which is a school mask mandate.
On Monday Lamont recommended removing the school mask mandate starting on Feb. 28.
“I think very strongly that local control is key, especially when it comes to schools,” Lamont said Monday.
Asked why he didn’t want the decision left up to parents, Lamont said “I can tell you that there are a fair number of schools where teachers may not feel as comfortable coming in unless they keep that mask mandate a little bit longer.”
Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association, who is the first person expected to testify Tuesday, said they want to make sure these decisions are being made using science.
“It feels an awful lot like we’re making this decision in this moment due to social pressures,” Dias said.
She said they want to make sure the schools stay open and a significant portion of elementary aged children are still unvaccinated.
“Teachers and students in spaces that aren’t well ventilated,” Dias said, explaining her concerns.
She said most teachers think it’s a little “premature” to lift the mask mandate.
At the same time, Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, who makes the recommendation on masks, said there is “no” data on “in-school transmission.”
It’s unclear what boards of education will use as metrics to make the decision at the local level if the state legislature decides not to weigh in and allow Juthani to continue to make the recommendation.
“The governor has actually never instituted a mask mandate in schools and the legislature is not voting on Thursday on a local option or a non-local option,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Monday.
Ritter said the public has a misunderstanding of the current mask mandate.
“The executive order since September is that the state Department of Education Commissioner in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health has the ability to require masks in schools,” Ritter said.
Ritter says if the legislature extended the mask mandate executive order then they would extend the power of the Commissioner of Public Health to make that decision.
“They’re not collecting any data on the transmission of COVID in schools. They never had and they won’t,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said.
Candelora says it’s time to end the mask mandate in schools.
“But it is puzzling to me that an administration that hides behind science doesn’t have any data to base their information off of,” he added.