Coronavirus and School Closures: FAQ for Teachers
Current school closures are unlike anything we in Connecticut have experienced in our lifetimes. You understandably have many questions about what school closures mean for you and your students, and here at CEA, we are compiling the answers to some of your most pressing questions.
We will be answering more questions as more information becomes available. Subscribe to updates from BlogCEA to stay up to date.
Q: How long will schools be closed?
A: Governor Lamont has closed Connecticut schools through April 20 and said it is likely that they may remain closed until the fall. At this time, school is not canceled for the remainder of the school year in Connecticut. Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona recently said, “We hope to welcome students back, but at this point we are taking precautions, and if we have to extend class cancellations, we will.”
Q: Will districts have to make up days? Will we be in school until June 30?
A: Governor Lamont issued an executive order waiving the 180-day requirement for school districts, meaning that the last day of the school year may be what each district had previously planned prior to closing due to coronavirus, unless the district chooses to add days to make up for lost instructional days.
Q: Can administrators require teachers to go to school buildings and attend group meetings during this crisis?
A: Teachers are considered “essential” workers per Governor Lamont’s executive order, and thus not covered by the order to stay home. However, educators do still need to follow social distancing protocols. Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has stated, “While total school closures have not happened, we are also encouraging work from home as much as possible and little to no person-to-person contact in our schools.”
***If your administrators are asking you to go to school for group meetings, or if you feel uncomfortable going into school for any reason, please contact your local president and UniServ Rep. You can also email your questions and concerns to CEA at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Are schools required to take part in distance learning?
A: Prior to the governor waiving the 180-day requirement, many schools, expecting to be out for only two weeks, sent students home with only supplemental activities. Since the waiver is now in effect, and the closures are likely to extend for at least several weeks, the State Department of Education has asked districts to shift to thinking about distance learning. Districts retain the authority to devise plans that best meet the needs of their students, and the State Department of Education is offering districts resources to support remote learning, such as this guide. NEA offers these resources to districts that have the capability to engage in online learning. Follow the lead of your district (which should first be in touch with your local union to reach agreement on expectations) as to what kinds of activities they expect you to plan and how they expect you to be in contact with students and parents. If any conversations with families take place over the phone, use *67 first to block your phone number.
Q: How can students who usually receive free or reduced-price lunch access meals during school closures?
A: Check the website of your school district or municipality. Many districts are making breakfasts and lunches available for students to pick up at school to take home at specified times, and a few districts also have specific dropoff locations for meals. Anyone in the household age 18 or under can receive the meals, not just school-aged children. Usually only one child per household must be present for the family to receive meals. Most districts are only providing meals to students (and younger siblings) who attend school in that particular district, but some others are providing community-wide emergency meals to children without residency restrictions.
Q: Will students be expected to take federally mandated assessments upon their return to school this spring?
A: The U.S. Department of Education has waived standardized testing requirements for the current school year for students in elementary school through high school. The department says it will provide relief from federally mandated testing requirements to any state requesting a waiver due to the public health crisis. Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Cardona have already submitted a request for a waiver, so no Connecticut students will be required to take SBAC assessments, SATs, or NGSS assessments. The State Department of Education is working closely with The College Board to determine the best course of action to take in regard to the administration of the SAT, since the test plays an important role in high school students’ college acceptance, placement, and entrance.
Q: I found some awesome resources online—so many companies are giving their stuff away for free! Can I use them?
A: If the resource is something you can legally download and use (such as a worksheet) and you are following your district’s remote learning procedures, you are probably okay, but any websites that require students to log in, have accounts, or otherwise do things online need to be approved by your district (as always). PA 16-189 (the student data privacy law) is still in effect. If you use your own resources or sites that aren’t approved, you may be liable if something goes wrong. Stick with district-approved resources, and if you find something new, share it with your administrator and you may be able to get it approved.
Q: I don’t have much experience with the online tools my district is now expecting me to use to teach or communicate with students. What should I do?
A: Training exists online for many of the sites commonly used by schools, but when in doubt, ask your district for help. They won’t know the need exists for support unless you speak up.