Tuesday, July 16, 2024

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Unions Issue COVID-19 Reopening List Demands

Other demands include the creation of joint COVID labor and management committees in every school district; only allowing “trained health care workers” to administer COVID-related care to students; delaying in-person learning until all staff (including temporary and substitute teachers) have been trained in safety protocols; and requiring food service workers to comply with restaurant COVID-19 protocols.

Union members said they are concerned there are still districts that do not have enough PPE or proper utilities in buildings, which could result in COVID-19 easily spreading. Katy Gale, Connecticut Education Association (CEA) board member and a 5th-grade teacher at Hindley Elementary School in Darien, said there are classrooms in her district with no windows or ventilation.

“If this can be true in a small suburban town like Darien, you can only imagine what my colleagues in small rural towns with less funding or in large urban [communities], like my own city, Stamford, or Waterbury, or New Haven have going on in their aging buildings,” Gale said.

During his daily briefing today, Gov. Ned Lamont addressed this concern and said the state will be checking back with districts to make sure the schools are following protocols.

“I’m not rushing people back. We always lead with public health,” Lamont said. “I’m doing everything I can to make sure these kids get an opportunity to have a real education, and that involves socialization and in-person learning as long as you can do it safely.”

Both the state and federal government have issued guidance for opening school, but both have stopped short of making any of it a requirement by either attaching money or issuing fines if certain protocols are not followed.

Superintendents were also told Friday how much additional funding they will receive in order to safely reopen, but it is only a fraction of what schools requested. Of the $420 million districts told the state they will need to open safely, $130.8 million will soon be distributed by the State Department of Education.

The safety measures requested by the unions today are a continuation of ongoing pushback from teacher unions since the governor gave the go-ahead for districts to reopen schools.

Union members said during the news conference they initially thought state and local officials would recognize the validity of their concerns and make proper accommodations for reopening. Instead, they said, the school year is about to begin and their concerns have still not been addressed.

“Our members must be part of the solution,” said Shelly Davis, vice president for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel at American Federation of Teachers Connecticut. “State and district level education policies and directives are only effective when developed with us, not to us.”

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas contributed to this story.

Other demands include the creation of joint COVID labor and management committees in every school district; only allowing “trained health care workers” to administer COVID-related care to students; delaying in-person learning until all staff (including temporary and substitute teachers) have been trained in safety protocols; and requiring food service workers to comply with restaurant COVID-19 protocols.

Union members said they are concerned there are still districts that do not have enough PPE or proper utilities in buildings, which could result in COVID-19 easily spreading. Katy Gale, Connecticut Education Association (CEA) board member and a 5th-grade teacher at Hindley Elementary School in Darien, said there are classrooms in her district with no windows or ventilation.

“If this can be true in a small suburban town like Darien, you can only imagine what my colleagues in small rural towns with less funding or in large urban [communities], like my own city, Stamford, or Waterbury, or New Haven have going on in their aging buildings,” Gale said.

During his daily briefing today, Gov. Ned Lamont addressed this concern and said the state will be checking back with districts to make sure the schools are following protocols.

“I’m not rushing people back. We always lead with public health,” Lamont said. “I’m doing everything I can to make sure these kids get an opportunity to have a real education, and that involves socialization and in-person learning as long as you can do it safely.”

Both the state and federal government have issued guidance for opening school, but both have stopped short of making any of it a requirement by either attaching money or issuing fines if certain protocols are not followed.

Superintendents were also told Friday how much additional funding they will receive in order to safely reopen, but it is only a fraction of what schools requested. Of the $420 million districts told the state they will need to open safely, $130.8 million will soon be distributed by the State Department of Education.

The safety measures requested by the unions today are a continuation of ongoing pushback from teacher unions since the governor gave the go-ahead for districts to reopen schools.

Union members said during the news conference they initially thought state and local officials would recognize the validity of their concerns and make proper accommodations for reopening. Instead, they said, the school year is about to begin and their concerns have still not been addressed.

“Our members must be part of the solution,” said Shelly Davis, vice president for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel at American Federation of Teachers Connecticut. “State and district level education policies and directives are only effective when developed with us, not to us.”

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas contributed to this story.

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