“I knew it was a question of when not if. I would prefer it not to happen the first week of school,” said Matthew Geary, Manchester School District Supervisor.
Three COVID-19 cases in the Manchester school district closed a building for one day and required 50 students and staff to quarantine for the next two weeks.
Keep in mind, children are distanced from society 6 feet away, they are disguised and they have table shields, Geary continued. “So even though there was a case in the room and we are quarantining the group the likelihood that people were actually in close contact there is unlikely. We are doing quarantine as a precaution.”
What is happening in Manchester is not unique. Nearly two dozen districts have experienced at least one positive case.
“I would be surprised if there were no cases in some school districts. I think that ‘s what we will all experience,” said Timothy Connellan, Southington School District Supervisor, who has had a case so far.
School districts work with their local health department to track contacts and determine if a group or class needs quarantine. In some cases, entire school buildings have been temporarily closed.
“There are a number of districts where seemingly similar situations have been reaped, but different responses have been there,” said Jeff Leake, head of the Connecticut Education Association.
The CEA together with the support staff union is calling on the state to apply stricter standards for dealing with COVID-19 cases.
The Connecticut education commissioner said the protocols are already in place indicating guidelines given for all districts. However, the CEA said they leave much to the discretion of the districts.
“We’re not saying well here this bar can be opened, but this bar can’t,” Leake said. “School systems deserve the same ability to say I know exactly what to do, how to do it and move forward.”
They are wrong when they say there are no standards, Connellan said.
Connellan said the district followed instructions given to them by both the State Department of Education and the Department of Public Health on their coronavirus case.
They have continued to emphasize it and reinforce it, he said of weekly meetings with the Department of Public Health.
The parent of a student at Farmington’s West District Elementary told us she changed her mind about sending him to class when she received notice that there was a positive COVID-19 case at her child’s school.
“We are afraid, yes. I think we will only change online,” said Walaa Darakal. Dangerous is dangerous for my son. “
Governor Ned Lamont gave the schools high marks for how they have handled the pandemic so far this school year.
“Schools have been very careful and prudent. They have closed classrooms and they have closed schools when necessary I think they are wrong on the care side,” he said.
However, Leake blamed Lamont, who appears to be pressuring these people to open up with all the children, all five days, he said.
While the state has passed mandates for businesses that want to reopen, and has set protocols for schools as well, the governor said he wants to give the districts more local control over how they handle COVID-19 cases.
“People know what I believe, but now it depends on each school. I can not mandate it, each school will decide its own mind,” Lamont said.
Leake said certain overseers are not following state guidelines, but declined to mention them. Instead, he said he would give them time to correct their mistakes, but warned that the union would make public the complaints they had received from members if this did not happen soon.
East Hartford English teacher Elizabeth Trojanowski was skeptical of returning to her class this fall. Then, the school was temporarily closed for a COVID-19 case and this gave it a new perspective.
“I love the way my district has handled it. I’m comforted by my district. I feel like they did it the right way. I would like to say the same for the other districts,” Trojanowksi said.
Trojanowski, who was also weak from the hybrid model of learning, said she had a heart change.
“There is so much more going on in my class, I as much as the short time I have with my kids because I have such a small group, I am able to take them much further,” she explained.
Jason Zandri, who has two children each in the school district of Wallingford and Meriden hoped they could attend school full-time in person, but said he decided on the hybrid curricula the districts offered. So far, he has been shocked by the results.
“I’m concerned that my children are missing an opportunity to learn,” he said.
After Wallingford Dag Hammarskjold High School closed for a COVID-19 case, Zandri said his kids’ school schedules suddenly changed from long-distance afternoons to a full day online.
“Childcare, school after school, it all gets messed up and you made the parents get involved,” he said.
Zandri lost the memorandum and his children lost a morning at school. He predicted that students in both districts would learn fully online before Halloween.
“It would have been better to just give up trying to bring them in if they would end up here,” Zandri said. “This is causing a lot of anxiety for the parents, this is causing a lot of anxiety for the children.”
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