Outgoing State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has an online meeting in West Haven High School shortly after a press conference in July to urge districts to open for in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year. (CT Mirror) Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

This episode of “Steady Habits” is the second episode in our two-part “Back to School” series. Yesterday, we explored higher education; Today, we turn our attention to primary and secondary education.

The start of the school year is now less than a month away, and nobody really knows what it’ll look like. Governor Ned Lamont had been saying that the plan was for Connecticut schools to return to in-person classes in the fall, but early last week, he reversed course, saying that it would be up to individual districts to make that determination.

Meanwhile, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, backed the call to return to classrooms where infections are under control.

These mixed messages have caused confusion among many parents, and prompted health worries from many teachers. 

The end of last school year showed how the problems presented by remote learning are especially acute for low-income parents and students, who are significantly less likely to have broadband access. Our education reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas has been detailing these realities. During what’s being called the “lost school year” that ended earlier this summer, some districts saw a massive drop-off in attendance when Covid forced classes online. 

Last Tuesday – just after the state had announced that towns can determine their own plans – John hosted a “Coffee Conversation” on this issue with the CT Mirror’s education reporter, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, and Miguel Cardona, Education Commissioner of the state of Connecticut, and Ryan Brown, a Middle School Teacher from Bridgeport.

Over the course of our conversation, you’ll hear some questions that came from our online audience, as we talk about the digital divide, what’s expected of teachers and parents in this new world, and how teaching might change forever.

John is CT Mirror's Director of Events. A well-known and highly-regarded radio personality and moderator, he divides his time between CT Mirror — where he heads up our events program and serves as a multi-platform consultant — and the NPR / PRI program Science Friday. Previously, John was executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and the host of NEXT, a weekly program about New England. He also appeared weekly on The Wheelhouse, WNPR’s news roundtable program. His 25 years in public media also include serving as vice president of news for Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, host of WNPR’s Where We Live, and regular fill-in host for the PRI program Science Friday in New York. He was twice recognized by PRNDI as America’s best public radio call-in show.