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Commissioner Announces Flexibility, Urges Teachers to Do the Best They Can to Keep Students Learning

State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona today told CEA leaders that his department is focusing on the big picture: ensuring safety for students and staff and keeping students engaged. He urged teachers to “give it your best effort to serve kids” and provide continuity of education with today’s reality.

In a conference call, the commissioner said his agency will be as flexible as possible when it comes to keeping students engaged, but he said, “Everyone has to be doing something.” Whatever teachers are doing to keep students engaged and learning, interaction between each educator and other individuals must be limited to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That means teachers should not be called back to school for mandatory group professional development, large faculty meetings, or other situations that are in direct conflict with Governor Lamont’s orders and CDC guidelines that call for limiting large group meetings and taking universal precautions, including social distancing. If these things are occurring in school districts, teachers are urged to contact their CEA UniServ Rep as soon as possible.

“The commissioner understands the severity of this public health emergency and wants to do all he can to keep our students, teachers, and communities safe,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “We appreciate his willingness to work with us and his flexibility in dealing with this rapidly changing health crisis.” 

Yesterday, the commissioner sent a memo to education stakeholders announcing the decision to eliminate individual district applications for 180-day waivers. That means there is no need to extend the school year until June 30; instead, districts may end the school year at their regularly scheduled end date. “Now we may all focus our efforts on providing students in Connecticut with continuing educational opportunities to the greatest extent possible,” Cardona wrote in the memo.

This is the beginning of what could be an indefinite school closure, and if the virus continues to spread over the next few weeks, Connecticut will be facing even bigger issues, including total lockdowns, similar to what we are witnessing in many European countries. Cardona said we should not be worrying about standardized testing or teacher evaluation, but focusing on critical issues. 

“The stronger we are together, the better,” he said.

The State Department of Education plans to provide guidance and resource materials to assist districts with continued learning and will share best practices from districts that have been successfully using online learning.

The commissioner is listening to teachers and encouraged CEA leaders to continue sharing teacher concerns with him and his staff. “We welcome your concerns. We need to hear from you,” he said.

CEA’s conversations with SDE are ongoing, and more guidance will be forthcoming in the days ahead.

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