By Jim Welch
UPDATE The state released requirements and guidance today for local districts to open schools this fall as hospitalizations in the state due to COVID-19 fell under 100 for the first time in months.
The Department of Education released its plan Thursday to return students to schools this fall with an option for parents and guardians to choose to keep students home temporarily. The state introduced the possibility to rehire retired teachers and teachers who voluntarily identify as “high risk” or have other health concerns to lead continued distance learning programs.
Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said today at a virtual news conference with Gov. Ned Lamont that the state education plan leaves many decisions with local school boards, superintendents and school principals.
“We know that one approach is not always best in all communities so we are listening to how districts consider this and trying to share best practices there to mitigate not only the distance learning and not only making sure that children can learn remotely but also balancing the responsibilities of teachers who will also have students in front of them“ Cardona said at the news conference,
Schools will be required to designate a COVID-19 Health and Safety Compliance Liaison to answer questions and record concerns from students, parents, teachers and staff.
Much like stores, schools will be required to have markings on the floor to encourage social distancing and space between workstations. The report emphasizes space between teachers and students when face-to-face to reduce droplets.
As was discussed last week, students, teachers and staff will all be required to wear face covering when inside school — with exceptions for underlying medical conditions.
Each school in a district must meet the Department of Public Health’s cleaning and disinfecting guidance, among other things.
School officials and teachers will also be required to teach students about expectations related COVID-19 precautions and provide soap, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer for older students. The state plan calls for schools to provide cloth face covering when feasible if a student does not have one.
The plan offers guidance on meals and nutrition including personal protective equipment for cafeteria workers and possible pick-up only or classroom delivery of food. But the planu only requires students to continue to have access to school meals at home if they are receiving meals and snacks as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Afterschool Snack Program, and Special Milk Program (SMP).
Meanwhile, school buses will run at full capacity if state COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward. The state says it may reduce bus capacity and enforce social distancing if it finds there is a moderate spread of the virus. The plan recommends school bus monitors to promote distancing but it is not required.
The number of hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 in Connecticut is under 100 for the first time since March 24, at 99, Lamont said today. The total number of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut increased by 59 to a total of 46,362 cases overall. Four additional people died with COVID-19, bringing the total number to 4,320.
Lamont boasted of an infection rate under 1 percent with 6,354 new tests reported today.
Even with trends improving in Connecticut, Lamont said he is increasingly hesitant to expand indoor dining regulations to more than 50 percent capacity or allow bars and clubs to reopen later this summer.