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The End of Remote Learning? Vaccinating Younger Students. A Forum on Housing and Educational Equity

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: The End of Remote Learning? Vaccinating Younger Students. A Forum on Housing and Educational Equity Tomorrow!

An End In Sight for Remote, Pandemic Learning?

On Monday, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that he expects all schools to offer in-person instruction this fall, full time and five days a week. "What I don't want to see," he offered, "is a system where students who were under-served in the past select remote learning because they don't feel that school is welcoming or safe for them." Cardona also said he believes there may be a need for increased federal oversight if districts fail to reopen in person, especially given that the Education Department's role is to ensure that all children get free and appropriate public education.

Relatedly, Bridgeport Superintendent Michael Testani issued a memo on Friday indicating that the district will not offer online instruction in the fall. “We must return back to full in person teaching and learning in order to provide children with the care and support they so desperately need to grow and succeed in life,” he wrote. Yesterday, Stratford followed suit in a letter indicating that the district would only be offering in-person learning. Don't miss today's New York Times article about the impact of pandemic learning on an eleven year old in Mississippi—representative of the many "lost students of the coronavirus pandemic." The story shines a light, beyond inadequate technology and WiFi access, on how disruptions to family life resulting from the pandemic have led to higher levels of disengagement in remote learning environments.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Middle School Students

This week began with the exciting news that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expects to authorize the Pfizer vaccine to COVID-19 for children aged 12-15, as early as next week—and that Moderna’s clinical trial for children 12 and up is also expected to have results soon. Moreover, the FDA is anticipated to approve both types of vaccine in even younger children later this year. President Biden commented yesterday that if the FDA approves the vaccines for 12-15 year olds, "we are ready to move immediately." For K-12 schools, a broad COVID-19 vaccination campaign targeting school-aged children could meaningfully impact how the start of the coming school year. If middle and high school students are able to be vaccinated by the fall, that will substantially change schools’ approaches to reopening, and possibly even allow classrooms to ease back towards normalcy.

On Monday, however, an interesting post by Five Thirty Eight discussed the continued evidence that young students are unlikely to transmit the virus. According to one study cited in the post, children under 9 years old were only responsible for about 5 percent of transmission last fall. Nevertheless, keeping kids masked, especially indoors, remains an important mitigation strategy.

Panel on Affordable Housing and Education Tomorrow!

Yesterday, a story in CT Insider covered a housing bill that expired before the Judiciary Committee last week—which had sought to address segregation and zoning inequities by having every Connecticut town plan and zone for its “fair share” of affordable housing. However, another bill that directly links housing and education–HB 5681: An Act Concerning Municipal Opportunity Reimbursement and Educational Equity–is still moving forward on the House calendar. We have been working on this effort, known as the MORE Act, for two years, in partnership with Majority Leader Jason Rojas. If passed, the legislation would offer communities in Connecticut a 10% bonus in school construction dollars if they are deemed “inclusive” by the Department of Housing, based upon criteria such as approval of multi-family units and accessory dwellings, and raising the total stock of a town’s affordable units.

Amy will be speaking about this effort on tomorrow’s “Darien Talks Housing” panel, the sixth conversation in a series hosted by Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity. She’ll be joined by Connecticut Voices for Children, ConnCAN and RAGETiIME in a discussion about the ties between housing and education.

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