State leaves reopening decision up to school districts


By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona on Monday confirmed school districts retain discretion over the reopening of K-12 public schools while the coronavirus remains a public health threat.

Lamont also shared survey results of parents and teachers that indicate 76% of students plan on attending in-person when schools reopen, and 80% of teachers expect to be showing up in the classroom to teach students in attendance.

School districts are required to provide remote learning options if parents choose to keep their children at home. Cardona said this applies even if there is only one student involved, but he indicated this policy could be subject to change later.

“Down the road when we are past a certain point it may be decided that that option can be revised, but at this point any parent in Connecticut has the right to keep children home to receive learning from home,” he said.

There had been uncertainty regarding whether school districts or the state Department of Education would make the call on bringing students back into school buildings to start the 2020-21 school year.

All school districts were required to submit operating plans for offering in-person instruction five days a week, a combination of in-person and remote instruction, or all remote instruction.

Only last week a spokesman for the Department of Education told the Republican-American that state officials would decide which plan would be used to start. Lamont and Cardona stated in response to several questions during a news briefing Monday that local officials would make that decision.

“It will be up to the districts which model to choose,” Cardona said.

The governor was expressly asked if there had been a mistaken impression that state officials would decide or if the administration’s thinking had changed in recent weeks.

“No offense, I think it was a misimpression, though,” Lamont said. “Obviously, I and Miguel, and most of the folks we talked to obviously saw the advantages of classroom learning. I heard definitely in terms of how important it is, especially for the younger grades to get back into the classroom.”

Lamont said he expects the vast majority of schools will reopen fully, but other school districts need the flexibility to respond to circumstances unique to their schools.

Also, Cardona reported some school districts are likely to offer a combination of in-person and remote learning for high and middle schools initially because of operating constraints on the upper grades, such as classroom space and the need for students to switch classes.

LAMONT AND CARDONA STATED the low rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths in Connecticut support resuming in-person instruction.

“At this point, the data suggest we should be getting kids into school learning in-person, and I think that is the direction that districts need to head in, and, quite frankly, the majority of districts we are speaking to are aiming for that, and the majority of parents and educators are wanting that,” Cardona said.

“Obviously, health and safety are the primary factors, and they will continue to be that, but we must take into account the risks to students, and the impact on students and their families when children are not in school when it is possible to be in school,” he continued.

There were 207 new cases of coronavirus disease reported Monday out of 31,690 test results that the Department of Public Health had received Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Lamont observed the percentage of positive tests worked out to nearly 0.7% based on those newly reported numbers.

There now have been 48,983 COVID-19 cases and 743,062 diagnostic tests, though his figure includes some multiple tests involving the same patient or specimen.

Public health officials reported a net decline of 12 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 between new hospital admissions and discharges to 59 statewide.

There were five more coronavirus-associated deaths reported since Friday. This raised the death toll to 4,418. The first fatality was announced in mid-March.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District reported Monday there have been 412 confirmed cases in Naugatuck — four less than the report issued Thursday. The health district identified duplicate cases in the state’s Electronic disease surveillance system as well as a number of individuals whose addresses were updated and don’t live in the district’s jurisdiction, a news release stated. The data reported Monday was updated to reflect the changes.

The health district reported there have 57 confirmed cases in Beacon Falls, which stayed the same as last Thursday’s figure.

There have been 37 confirmed deaths associated with coronavirus and three probable deaths in Naugatuck, according to the health district, and none in Beacon Falls.

As of Friday, the Chesprocott Health District reported there have been 74 cases in Prospect and no coronavirus-related deaths in town.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.