The state Department of Education told public school districts on Tuesday that they will not be required to provide remote learning in the fall, clearing the way for more students to get back in the classrooms.
School districts have been required to provide remote learning since the pandemic disrupted in-person learning last spring.
In guidance sent to superintendents Tuesday, the Department of Education said that since there is no existing mandate under Connecticut or federal law that says all districts must offer remote learning options beyond this current school year, officials “do not anticipate the need to mandate” remote learning as an option.
“We’re continuing to emphasize that access to in-person learning is our priority, and that’s aligned with our state Board of Education’s promise of equity and access for all students,” said Peter Yazbak, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “In-person learning provides not just academic benefits but connections and social-emotional benefits for students being in school, interacting with their peers, having the support system that the school offers.”
“I am extremely pleased with this decision,” Bridgeport Superintendent Michael Testani said in an email. “We cannot sustain synchronous teaching. It is extremely difficult on staff and not good for kids. We may have families that wish to remain remote, however, we do not have any plans to provide a remote option at this time.”
“I believe strongly that kids need to return to in-person learning,” Testani said. “It has been more than a year away from the classroom for some students.”
Throughout the school year, state officials encouraged districts to open school doors for in-person learning. During the week of April 13-23, 75% of school districts in Connecticut offered fully in-person learning, according to the state data.
Although districts will no longer be required to provide remote learning, the guidance does not prevent officials from offering it.
The department is going to work with districts that do decide to continue providing remote learning next year by helping them apply it to apply “judiciously,” in ways that are supported by the department’s standards, current laws and pending legislation, according to Yazbak.
For example, remote learning may continue to be offered through advance placement or specialized classes that are not offered in a home district, or during potential classroom quarantine and emergency building-related issues such as heating or plumbing problems, or inclement weather, the guidance states.
The department will also discuss educators’ concerns about requiring instruction simultaneously for in-person and remote student groups.
“This guidance is a good first step, but Connecticut also needs to put an end to dual instruction,” Connecticut Education Association President Jeff Leake said in a statement. “Dual teaching is unsustainable, and it short-changes students on both sides of the screen.”
Other school districts are deciding how to proceed. During a meeting earlier this month, Ellington Public Schools board members voted to not offer remote learning to students next academic year.