Coleytown Middle School French teacher Sharon Gardener instructs her class at the newly renovated school on opening day Tuesday, January 5, 2021, in Westport, Conn.
Students arrive for the first day of school at Fairfield Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, Ct., Monday morning, August 30, 2021.
With COVID-19 cases at record high numbers in local schools, teachers and staff plan to make a statement about school safety.
On Wednesday, a coalition of unions representing over 60,000 Connecticut public school employees will wear black to school to demand stronger health and safety measures. Members and their colleagues were encouraged to share photos on social media with the hashtag #Blackout4SafeSchools.
The coalition cited failures to distribute promised N95 masks and at-home test kits, staff shortages, and a need for flexibility in allowing for short-term remote learning.
“We need every member of school communities across Connecticut — educators, paras, custodians, nurses, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and monitors, and support staff — to stand together and amplify the call for safe learning and teaching environments in our schools,” read an event flyer.
More than 2,300 school staff members reported positive COVID cases early last week, according to state data through Wednesday. Those affected include employees or contractors that work in schools, from teachers to school transport workers.
The data represented an almost 5-fold increase since the record cases among staff set last school year in January 2021.
“I personally don’t feel very safe,” said Sheena Graham, a music teacher in Bridgeport, “and I don’t think I’m that odd in feeling that way.”
Graham, who was the 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, said proper mask-wearing has been a problem, and test kits are still hard to get. She also wondered if temporary remote learning could have kept case counts lower and more kids in school. Before winter break, the teacher said students were absent every day.
Though she loves her job, Graham plans to retire at the end of this month — and said she has slept better than ever since she made that decision.
“This is part of the reason why,” she said. “Knowing what all the tools are, if they aren’t readily available, and if they’re not all functioning, then that’s almost like not having them.”
Last week, more than 7,600 students also reported new infections to their school districts, according to state data.
The numbers are preliminary and subject to change as schools become aware of more positive results from at-home and non-school-based tests.
Some school support staff, such as paraprofessionals and other non-certified employees, have “extraordinarily close contact with the students,” said Sherrie Weller, president of AFSCME Local 1522 in Bridgeport. “We’re talking about inches away from them.”
The union lost beloved 12-year paraeducator Eleanor DeShields to COVID-19 last winter, so for her colleagues, Wednesday’s effort for more stringent mitigation methods is personal.
“My biggest concern is there’s a lack of consistent protocol here,” said Weller. “That would go a long way to make people feel more secure in doing their jobs.”
Not all educators on Monday agreed with the additional precautions. In Ellington, high school history teacher Aaron Hoffman encouraged educators to wear red to counter the “blackout” — and cited concerns about more mitigation strategies, remote learning and their impacts on student mental health.
The coalition has stressed their call is not for remote learning, but for flexibility at the local level to institute the model when necessary due to staffing shortages or other reasons. Hoffman favored a simpler approach: “If kids are having symptoms, they can stay home. If adults are having symptoms, they can stay home,” he said.
Symptom tracking recently became a greater priority in local schools, as state guidance has shifted away from contact tracing and stringent quarantine protocols. The details of that strategy, though, can vary from district to district.
“We know that the mental health and education of our students has struggled because of remote learning,” said Hoffman. “They came back and those children, they’re out of the loop, they’re drained, they don’t have the mental health they went into quarantine with.”
Kate Dias, president of the state’s largest teachers union, suggested last week that increased illness of any kind is common after winter break, and the coalition had pushed to ward off a surge before schools reopened.
The unions have requested measures such as more aggressive testing protocols, access to testing, N95 masks and vaccines, and prohibiting combining classes for staff shortages and dual teaching.
“Schools are a difficult place to be in right now,” Dias said. “Not bad, just hard. Everybody on the ground is being pushed into situations that are hard.”
State officials have remained committed to in-person instruction, citing the benefits for student learning and well-being.
Cayla Bamberger covers education for the Connecticut Post. Her writing on national K-12 issues has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Hechinger Report and Education Week. She’s also a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where she covered New York City public schools.
TOP 4 Essay Writing Services in the USA: 2023 Edition
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Now, let’s explore the top 4 essay writing services in the USA for 2023.
TOP 4 Essay Writing Services in the USA: 2023 Edition
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How We Evaluated the Services
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By carefully analyzing these aspects, we identified the top 4 essay writing services that offer outstanding support to students.
Choosing a reliable essay writing service is crucial for students seeking academic assistance. The top 4 essay writing services mentioned in this article – EssayPro, Grademiners, Ultius, and EduBirdie – have proven their worth in terms of quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Whether you need help with an essay, research paper, or any other academic assignment, these services can provide you with the support you need to succeed in your studies.