Connecticut preparing for all schools to open, but state planning for online education if COVID-19 surges. Final decision will be made in a month, Gov. Lamont says.

Elva Mankin

Connecticut is preparing for three different scenarios for the opening of schools and a final decision on how education will look will be made in a month, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

Educators and the state are planning for all learning to take place in schools, but that could be modified to a mix of online and in-class learning or, if there is a coronavirus surge, all education will shift to at-home learning.

“Things change,‘’ Gov. Lamont said at his afternoon COVID-19 briefing, noting that San Diego and Los Angeles decided Monday to shift to an online learning model. “We still have very low metrics compared to San Diego and Los Angeles and most of these other states.”

How schools look “is going to be subject to where we are a month from now,‘’ Lamont said.

Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Assoociation of Public School Superintendents, said that school superintendents are preparing different options. She appeared with Lamont at his afternoon online news briefing Monday.

“We are watching the science very carefully. We want to bring them all back,‘’ Rabinowitz said. “We are working on a hybrid model if in fact the data ticks up and we realize we cannot bring all the children back and keep our staff and children safe, we will got to a hybrid model where we will bring some children in on some days and others on distance learning and bring them in on other days, different grades at different times,” she said.

If there is a particularly bad COVID-19 surge, Rabinowitz said the schools would then shift to strictly online learning. “We will be prepared in the best way possible,” she said.

State epidemiologist Mathew Cartter, who also appeared at the Monday briefing, said that schools should not be reopened if there is widespread community transmission of COVID-10. As of now, Connecticut has a very low percentage rate for positive tests for the virus.

“Being inside for school is not an easy task. We are all concerned about what happens when the weather gets colder and all of us are not able to spend as much time outdoors,‘’ Cartter said, warning about the confluence of a COVID-19 and flu outbreak.

Rabinowitz said schools will emphasize five priorities for when schools open: hand washing, grouping students in smaller cohorts, face covering with masks and social distancing. In the event of a shift to at-home learning, she said the state was working to make sure students have the right technology and internet connectivity.

“What is difficult” Rabinowitz said is that “there is ambiguity here. We can’t be 100% certain of any model. The objective is to keep them healthy and safe.”

“It is looking good to be able to bring students back into a safe and healthy environment,” Rabinowitz said. “We want all the kids back … but honestly it has to be a safe and healthy environment but that data could change tomorrow.”

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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