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: What the Data Say About Learning Models and COVID Spread; Prioritizing Teacher Vaccination; and a Panel on Education and Housing.
Have Fewer Students Who Are Enrolled in Fully In-Person Learning Contracted COVID-19?
The state is now publishing data weekly about the number of students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 in Connecticut schools. Although the numbers are not presented alongside data about how many students are using each learning model, the state does track that information separately. We’re trying to put the numbers side-by-side to find out whether students taking part in certain learning models might have lower rates of infection, supporting the position that in-person school can be safe with proper precautions. This week, for instance, it appears that a much lower percentage of students were infected in fully in-person learning models than in hybrid or remote.
It’s important to note that this is only one week’s worth of data. We couldn’t find archival data on the number of cases by learning model, even though these numbers have been tracked and reported weekly since October. What is interesting about it (but you will have to take our word for it) is that these results are consistent over the last several weeks: More cases of COVID have been detected among students in hybrid or remote learning than in fully in-person models. This is the type of information that we hope the state will continue to provide and archive publicly.
Vaccine Priority for Teachers
Despite the COVID surge, Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Cardona continue to support and advocate for open public schools, particularly for Grades K-5. In Governor Lamont’s press conference Monday, he said, “I would fight like heck to keep those schools open as long as I humanly could do it.” Noting the lack of spread within school facilities (See story above!), the Governor claimed that “a third grade classroom might be the safest place in the state right now.” We appreciate the Governor’s statements in support of our youngest students’ learning.
When asked, Governor Lamont also agreed with the prioritization of teachers getting early access to vaccines. “They’d be near the front of the line as far as my mind,” he said. Indeed, if our students’ learning is essential, then it is critical to prioritize teachers as essential workers in the early phases of the vaccine distribution.
Another way to sustain in-person learning is to provide more COVID testing for schools. Just over the border, New York City is reopening its elementary schools and relying upon weekly, required testing for students and staff. However, Governor Lamont is keeping testing optional. According to the Hartford Courant, most schools are not yet regularly testing students and staff for asymptomatic carriers.
The Partnership for Strong Communities held a virtual convening last month, Tipping Point: Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Conference, and Amy was proud to moderate a panel about the intersectional work of education and housing policy. Panelists—including Lisa Hammersley from the CT School and State Finance Project; Liz Donohue from Intersect Public Solutions; Sean Ghio from the Partnership, and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas—used our recent legislative effort tying housing to school construction bonding incentives as a case study.
Watch Here: Tipping Point Panel (YouTube)