The lead photo of a Facebook page organizing a 'Car Caravan for a Safe and Fully-Funded Back to School' at the state Capitol during the summer. screen shot of Facebook event page

First let me give a heartfelt thank you to the state’s essential workers – hospital personnel, nurses, doctors, police, firefighters, EMTs, grocery workers, etc. that have been at work serving Connecticut citizens without interruption since March.

The biggest question facing Connecticut, right now, is will there be school in the fall?

Gov. Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona had been indicating that we should expect in in-person learning – until this week when they shifted positions to put the decision in the hands of school districts and moved expectations to a hybrid model.

Early polls by districts indicated that 81% of teachers expected to be teaching in school this fall. However, a more recent poll by the teachers’ union indicates 74% oppose fully opening schools with 46% favoring a return to distance learning. Recently the CEA (the state’s largest teachers union) organized protests in districts across Connecticut appealing for a delay in in-person school and a return to the distance learning model.

Connecticut parents and teacher know that “distance learning” last spring was a failure and did not meet the standards of a “public education.”  137,000 (20%) Connecticut students simply did not participate. Distance learning severely impacted students in our cities, Bridgeport for example saw only 50% participation.

Some teachers are understandably concerned for their health. No one should be forced to work at a job where they feel unsafe. School districts around the state are designing plans to meet CDC guidelines for safety, including barriers, PPE, cleaning schedules, social distancing, etc.

Considering all the issues, the question all parents are still asking is: will the teachers be in school just like the hardworking people at the grocery store? Can our children learn while we go to work? Will we be forced to choose between staying home and teaching our children (and getting fired); or must we find a way to pay for tutors and childcare in addition to all our other financial stresses?

Remember, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that all citizens have a Constitutional Right to a public education. It’s time to decide – are schools essential or not?

Jim Miller is a resident of Lyme.

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