Connecticut's teachers' union leader urges schools to switch to all-remote learning

HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) — The leader of Connecticut’s largest teachers union is urging school superintendents statewide to move to remote learning until at least the middle of January.

Connecticut Education Association President Jeff Leake said in a statement that he is asking all public school superintendents to prioritize the safety of students, teachers and staff by closing school buildings for in-person learning.

Citing the rising number in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state, Leake says closing schools is the “wisest course of action to prevent the further spread of the virus.”

While some have argued that most schools in the state are working on a hybrid model, Leake says that is not enough.

“For those districts that are doing hybrid, there's still a lot of concern regarding getting kids back and forth to school even though less students are in school, there's still seems to be distancing problems. So that's a concern for us,” he tells WCBS 880.

“And then finally, the other thing that's a real concern is the instructional model," he added. "What we're finding out from our teachers is that the problem comes in when they're trying to do remote instruction with students who are not in their site, who are not in their classroom, but also dealing with the kids who are right in front of them. So, again, for us, that whole split version kind of thing where the same teacher is teaching kids who are right there in front of them and also kids that are not is a problem. It is not the most effective way to do this.”

Leake previously notes that at least 162 Connecticut towns have been identified as coronavirus red zones and he believes minimizing community exposure will help to reduce the numbers in the state.

Gov. Ned Lamont and state education officials have been allowing local school officials to decide whether to switch to all-remote learning but have been advocating for schools to be kept open, saying it's better for students.

Leake says many schools have already made the switch, and he appreciates superintendents who put the safety of their students and staff first.

“We thank all those superintendents who said to themselves, to their staff, to their communities, ‘Let's just take a pause here. Let's take about a two week pause. Let's maybe come back after Martin Luther King weekend. If everything's OK, if things haven't gotten even worse than they are right now, teachers want to get back with their kids, but they want to do it safely,’” Leake said. “And that is the key feature of all of the press releases and statements that we've made over the past couple of months.”

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