For Now…Mostly…Schools Are Open!
Happy 2022! It’s been a rocky start for schools this January, amidst the Omicron surge. By Monday, only a few Connecticut districts had announced closures for the early part of the week—time to deal with staffing shortages, transportation problems, or development of updated COVID mitigation protocols. But yesterday, Ansonia Public Schools announced that it will also have to close for the rest of the week because so many school employees were absent on Monday. And today, many saw the first snow day of the year.
Across the country, NPR reports that mayors, governors, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona have all spoken up in favor of keeping schools open. Governor Ned Lamont himself reiterated yesterday that he is committed to in-person learning—urging schools to take advantage of masks, vaccines, and testing to stay open as much as possible. He said that remote learning days will not count toward school districts’ required 180-day school year. “There’s nothing that compares to a great teacher in the classroom,” the Governor said.
For an insightful and clear argument against growing pressures for a return to remote learning—Hugh Bailey’s Sunday column is a must-read. He argues that, especially since children continue to be the least at risk of serious outcomes related to COVID-19, encouraging vaccination—even by mandate—is the best solution. Likewise, don’t miss yesterday’s piece, "No Way to Grow Up," from David Leonhardt. It observes that America's approach to the pandemic, so far, has been to shield adults from risk by accepting more harm to children. Much of the country has, he says, "tried to minimize the spread of Covid—a worthy goal absent other factors—rather than minimizing the damage that Covid does to society.”
New National and State Guidance on COVID in Schools
Over winter break, the CDC shortened its guidelines for the length of COVID isolation and quarantine. (CNN had details of the updated recommendations here last week.) At a press conference yesterday, Governor Lamont, CT Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, and CT Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani accordingly released updated state-level guidance. The CT Post’s coverage describes newly recommended shorter periods of quarantine for Connecticut students who test positive, and more leniency for people with known exposures who are asymptomatic. In addition, the state recommends that school personnel shift their attention away from contact tracing, given the current high rates of transmission. Instead, emphasis should be on managing students and staff with active symptoms. All of this is good news for advocates of in-person learning. However, the state has made its new guidance optional, which can always jeopardize equal, equitable, statewide oversight over public education.
ICYMI: Two Big Reports to End 2021
In case you missed it, in mid-December, our affiliate, ERN CT, released a research report that explores the relationship between teacher pension obligations, which vary greatly by district, and student equity. The key finding: on a per pupil basis, the State of Connecticut’s coverage of local teacher pension costs amounts to a subsidy that favors higher performing, more affluent, and less diverse districts. This puts districts with the greatest need at a systemic disadvantage in terms of resource equity and how they compensate their teaching workforce. Read the report here. Also, make sure you look over our digital 2021 End-of-Year Report here, which captures the enormous body of work we have been able to accomplish through the partnership of friends like you! Much more to come in 2022. We’re excited to get started!