Is Connecticut reopening schools because children need to get back to learning, socializing and regaining a sense of normal, or the new normal? Or is it reopening schools so companies and business owners can be assured employees can get back to work and our economy will continue to open and thrive?
Either way you look at it, Connecticut’s school reopening plan will achieve neither.
The current plan does not address nor does it respect the highly infectious nature of the COVID-19 virus. It does not address the substantial challenges many districts currently face, that will aid in the spread of the virus, if not addressed. The plan lacks much needed detail. It lacks solutions that are reality based. It does not provide the necessary protections and standard protocols that will be required to keep schools safe and open for the long term.
Connecticut has 150+ school districts. Each is now being asked to submit three plans to cover scenarios of how each district will operate given various COVID-19 infection rates. Connecticut is one of our country’s smallest states, and earns one of the highest per capita incomes. Why are we not developing a comprehensive state-wide master plan for reopening our schools?
Yes, there is diversity, however given the pandemic surrounding us, can we truly justify a reason why our children, teachers, administrators and parents should have cause for concern because their child’s school was unable to implement all necessary and required safeguards?
Connecticut needs to create and implement a plan that is based on a realistic rather than best-case scenario. It needs a plan where health and safety are indeed the highest priorities rather than just a stated priority. A plan that requires rather than recommends social distancing. A plan that addresses reduction in class size. A plan that follows all key CDC guidelines such as reduced capacity on school buses and the addition of an adult monitor, to ensure children follow protocols to reduce the chance of infection. A plan when entering all school buildings health checks are performed and centrally reported, where all virus related processes are in place and well known. A plan that includes time for comprehensive training for both staff and students. A plan for the availability and use of PPE. A plan where critical issues cannot be added to an action plan list and then stored on a shelf.
How can our state leaders, school organizations, communities, business partners, college students and health experts collaborate to ensure our schools have a viable reopening plan that will allow our students to learn while keeping everyone as safe as possible?
The debate is not whether our children should return to school and for parents to return to work. For most, the answer is a resounding, YES. That is the easy part. The hard part is HOW. To succeed we cannot start with the attitude that the state does not have an infinite budget, but we will be supportive where we can. We must all roll up our sleeves, be creative with alternatives, leverage the resources and talent within the state, create a multifaceted plan that works for the many stakeholders.
In doing so we can effectively open our schools. We can continue to successfully reopen our businesses. We can grow our economy, while continuing to keep our children and all Connecticut citizens safe. We do not have a choice. We MUST do better.
Cindie A. Curtis of Farmington is a parent, education consultant and advocate.