Education unions demand uniform COVID standards or go remote

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A coalition of public education unions is demanding that Connecticut schools shift to full-time remote learning if statewide COVID-19 safety protocols and a uniform policy for reporting and responding to positive cases are not required.

The group, which submitted a petition signed by nearly 14,000 education and community members to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s office on Thursday, contends policies are inconsistent by district and that teachers and staff, as well as students, are being put at risk for contracting COVID-19.

“What we know is that in different places in Connecticut, in different districts, superintendents are under tremendous pressure to try to make sure that every kid is coming into school,” said Jeff Leake, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

He said there are some districts where students are not wearing masks and superintendents are not sending them home, as well as schools where the standard 6 feet (2 meters) of social distancing has dropped to 2 1/2-3 feet instead.

Meanwhile, union officials acknowledged that social distancing and other safety measures are working in some districts and those schools should remain open.

“What we were promised at the beginning of the school year were recommendations, guidelines and protocols. What we find is that they’re inconsistently applied,” said Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers and vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut. “It should not be a local decision. There should be a basis of safety in every district. That’s a fundamental thing.”

A message was left seeking comment with a Lamont spokesperson about the petition. The governor has said previously that local officials could decide whether to shutter schools if there’s a rise in cases and that the state doesn’t plan to mandate closures like what happened in the springtime.

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