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Teachers Respond to School Reopening Plan

Bridgeport music teacher Sheena Graham appeared on NBC Connecticut last night sharing her concerns about returning to school.

Teachers are concerned about a plan to return to school in the fall that doesn’t include testing or screening of staff and students, limits on class sizes, or provisions to ensure social distancing. Since the plan was released yesterday, many CEA members have been speaking out and sharing their concerns with Connecticut media outlets.

“There are so many precautions that have to be put in place that all depend on funding,” says Bridgeport music teacher and 2019 Connecticut teacher of the year Sheena Graham. “If they’re not able to be met, then I don’t think we’re able to open up the buildings again.”

Graham and Marlborough kindergarten teacher Amy Farrior expressed their concerns to NBC Connecticut. Farrior said, “I tear up when I think about keeping kindergarteners away from each other, away from me.”

U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes shared many of her former colleagues’ concerns in a Tweet last night to Governor Lamont.

In an interview with NBC Connecticut today she said she wants to make sure the state is framing school reopening not only through the lens of an employer. She said she is hearing from teachers, “‘How will we socially distance when we already are in confined spaces?’ We have poor air quality in some of these older buildings.”

Hayes continued, “I’ve heard the desperation in the voices of so many teachers from around the state. I mean, my own daughter, who is a teacher, called me and said, ‘Ma, how are we going to do this?’ I want teachers to feel confident and supported as they transition back into the classroom.”

CREC kindergarten teacher Lisa Cordova is the primary caregiver for her 79-year-old mother and worries about the possibility of being infected at school and spreading the virus to her mom. She told the CT Mirror, “We’re going back so quickly because of the economy, but is it what is safe?”

CEA Executive Director Don Williams also spoke to the CT Mirror. “Certainly the idea of running school buses at capacity and having 25 students or more in a classroom raises significant concerns.”

“As a person who has spent more than 40 years in front of the classroom, I’d say 100% of the students 100% of the time isn’t a workable solution,” CEA President Jeff Leake told WTIC News Talk Radio this morning. “Putting 60 or 70 kids on a bus and hoping they’re going to be wearing their masks the whole time just isn’t safe.”

“I’m ready to go back and work with students, I just hope we have a more detailed and clear plan to do that,” Hamden teacher Michael Rocco said to NBC Connecticut.

“We have to have a more robust distance learning plan in our back pocket,” Williams told Channel 3 Eyewitness News. “All we have to do is look at what’s happening in other states.”

Read more coverage of school reopening in articles from The CT Post, Hartford Courant, CTNewsJunkie and The Wall Street Journal, which all quoted CEA President Jeff Leake.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Noreen Bibee #

    As an elderly high school teacher, these so-called “plans” do not secure my safety. I have 90 students in a room with no air conditioning in the afternoon sun. There have been days where my room was pushing 90 degrees in the afternoon. This “plan” as it is will not work.

    June 30, 2020
  2. Jack #

    I am still not clear about consideration for teachers who are at risk or who have family members who are at risk. We are not numbers and statistics. We are people with medical and financial or job concerns. I acknowledge this is a mess to figure out. But look at all of those involved and at risk, not just a portion.

    June 29, 2020
  3. Susan Proto #

    As a retired teacher of children in the primary grades and children with special needs, I truly wonder how all of a sudden it’s been determined that schools may be opened on a fulltime basis with 100% of students accommodated.

    When was the last time TPTB were in a *public* school classroom? Six feet apart would allow for maybe one fourth to, maybe, one third the normal classroom occupancy. What happens to the remaining students? Where will they be placed? I defy you to go find appropriate, well-ventilated, airconditioned/heated spaces. And my incredulity is tripled for older buildings that should have been refurbished or closed a long time ago.

    Let’s assume space is found; where does the money come from to fund extra teachers, school supplies, classroom furniture and materials? Wealthier school districts are presently looking to slash budgets; do I even have to mention there are districts that can barely provide basics now?

    Soap? Hand sanitizer? Paper towels? Toilet paper? Disinfecting supplies? Who will in charge of cleaning and disinfecting classrooms and teaching areas on *at least* a daily basis? (This, of course, should be done throughout the school day, but realistically, that’s not going to happen.)

    School buses bring up a whole other list of concerns. When was the last time TPTB rode on a school bus, with no seatbelts, that had kids riding three to a seat? Getting on and off the bus in and of itself pose numerous opportunities for exposure. And it will be difficult enough for the classroom teacher to ensure masks remain on their students’ faces while they’re looking at and walking among the children. How is a box driver expected supposed to ensure masks are in place while her eyes are on the road?

    Of course the big question is, what happens if a child (teacher, staff member) develops symptoms at school? Will school close immediately? Will the parents be expected to pick up said child(ren)? Forgive me if a giggle escapes my lips; that was oft times a challenge pre-pandemic. I can only imagine how challenging it will be to get kids picked up now.

    What about those people who are exposed ? Will testing be immediately available? What happens if a teacher is exposed and must self-quarantine? Do TPTB expect to have substitute teachers readily available to step in? There were *never* enough subs pre-pandemic; how many do you realistically think will be ready to step into the classroom now?

    There are way too many unanswered questions to show families and staff how a return to the building will work safely and effectively,. Bringing all children and staff back fulltime for the sake of saying it’s time and necessary before our kids fall further behind seems more like an excuse for those who need to place children somewhere in order to allow for parents to return to the workplace.

    Connecticut has been so careful and tactical in opening up our state again. This whole school plan simply does not follow suit. Governor Lamont’s daughter has rescheduled her Labor Day weekend wedding, which is showing the respect this crazy virus deserves. Why would we not exhibit that same cautious attitude when it comes to the school children and school staff of Connecticut?

    June 27, 2020
  4. Joann Briganti #

    I’m seriously concerned about air quality. Most of the rooms in my building on the third floor are 90 degrees with humidity at 75 or 80% on a good day. We have no ac like a lot of older schools and the district can’t provide that. I’m concerned about the heat as well as my asthmatic students in addition to myself.

    June 27, 2020
  5. Linda #

    Will everyone be required to disclose if their family is infected by COVID or will they be protected by HEPA laws?

    June 26, 2020
  6. Donald Brelsford #

    I am also a Bridgeport music teacher. How can students touch instruments such as piano keyboards or any other hands on instrument and then realistically have them all sanitized for the next class? We can’t allow singing and movement to music would quickly bring on heavier breathing. Similar issues would take place in gym and art.Then we have students using bathrooms where they do their business then have to touch faucets to wash hands. When finished they touch the contaminated faucets again to shut the water off. Can the city find the money to replace all of the knob style faucets with the lever type or with motion sensor faucets?

    June 26, 2020

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