By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — As the new school year is approaching, there are new guidelines being put in place to help ensure the safety of students and staff during the novel coronavirus when schools reopen on Sept. 8.
According to Hartford Superintendent of Public Schools Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, there is a new “Return to Learn and Accelerate Plan” which will help with a smooth transition back to school.
“This plan will allow us to adjust quickly as public health conditions change, and as we receive feedback from our community,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “We remain committed to resuming teaching and learning with safety, equity, science, and the needs of our stakeholders informing our thinking and decisions.”
According to Torres-Rodriguez, The Connecticut Department of Education required districts to submit three plans in preparation for the fall: one for in-person learning, one for hybrid in-person/distance learning, and one for fully remote learning, options A,B, and C on the recent Learning Preference family survey.
Gov. Ned Lamont said that while he is confident about reopening of schools, he is also optimistic with regards to the safety of the students and staff.
“I do not want a lost year. And everybody says ‘let’s not go back to school until its perfectly safe, until we have a vaccine, until 100 percent of the people are vaccinated. I worry that could be a lost year of education,” the governor said.
During a webinar on Wednesday, which featured public health experts giving their thoughts on the reopening of schools, safety was the number one emphasis.
One of the featured experts Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases attending physician at Northwestern University and Feinberg School of Medicine, said that schools must take into consideration the risks associated with reopening
“If there is a high rate of infection, it will not be wise to open schools in those particular areas,” Tan said. “It would increase the risk of COVID-19 and won’t be safe for students and staff.”
According to Tan, schools must have a positive test rate above five percent in order to be able to reopen.
All students participating in distance learning from home will be taught by certified teachers from their school. The format will be mostly synchronous and include live video instruction with the teacher.
Lamont said teachers are able to get a test for free, but didn’t give any plans for the state to provide testing.
“We have 160 testing centers, any teacher that wants to, go get a free test,” Lamont said. “We are recommending maybe some of them do that before the start of the school year.”
According to Torres-Rodriguez, schools will be cleaned daily and “high touch” areas will be disinfected.Signs will be posted in school buildings to remind students and staff to wash hands or sanitize, and wear face coverings
Torres-Rodriguez said that re-opening will be a challenge but she is confident that students will be educated efficiently.
“The year ahead will undoubtedly be challenging for us all,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “We are committed to continuing to collaborate with you to provide the best teaching and learning possible to all of our beautiful and capable students in a safe and healthy environment.”