IN-PERSON LEARNING IS THE GOAL At a back-to-school roundtable emphasizing safety and supports for students and teachers, CEA President Kate Dias told reporters, “Nobody is more excited than teachers to be back to school.” The roundtable discussion, held at Highland Elementary School in Cheshire, featured leaders and stakeholders in education and public health, including Dias, Governor Ned Lamont, Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford, Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Fran Rabinowitz, and others. Stakeholders agreed that keeping schools open to full in-person learning this school year is a shared goal and that following masking, vaccination, and other public health protocols is key to ensuring that can happen safely. “While other states are sending kids home to quarantine, we are here to see how we can keep our schools open,” the governor said. Federal dollars would allow for better student support services in every district, Rabinowitz noted. Russell-Tucker strongly emphasized the need for social emotional and mental health supports, including the hiring of additional school staff, “an audacious goal” that she said would benefit students and educators alike. Asked about teachers’ perspectives on returning to school, CEA’s Dias said, “What you all should know is that teachers are ready. These are really rock-solid professionals who are trained to navigate the uncharted waters of recovering from the pandemic. They showed their tenacity and perseverance last year, and I would expect nothing less in the coming year. You’re going to see amazing things. I think back to a year and a half ago, and our ability to adjust, reflect, and respond is what makes teachers in Connecticut truly exceptional. That’s what you have before you.”

TEACHERS ELIGIBLE FOR PFIZER BOOSTER SHOTS; VACCINE ELIGIBILITY ANTICIPATED FOR CHILDREN AGES 5-11 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed Pfizer booster shots for teachers and others at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their work setting. President Biden urged those in eligible categories to get a booster to strengthen their protection as the delta variant continues to circulate. Connecticut vaccine providers are rolling out boosters to all who are eligible, including not only teachers but also those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and anyone 65 and older. Officials added that a vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 could be available by Halloween and that the state is taking steps to prepare for that possibility.

CEA Applauds State’s Focus on Safe Schools

Connecticut’s education system leads the country, and the state’s highly trained professional teachers make it happen. Some have leveraged their experience in our public schools to make a difference within our unions, in our halls of Congress, and at the Cabinet level. Taking a break from the national stage to visit their roots, Connecticut’s own U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes paid a special visit to applaud the state’s goal of ensuring safe, in-person learning. They were joined by CEA President Kate Dias, Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan, Governor Ned Lamont, and Connecticut State Waterbury schools to welcome teachers and students back and constructed Wendell L. Cross Elementary School. “This celebration reminds us that the building is great; new buildings are important,” said Dias, adding, “They identify that we have infrastructure that we’re supporting, but at the end of the day, what really matters are the people, including the teachers and what they’re going to do in that building. That’s what makes the difference.” Egan, a teacher at Cross Elementary, said, “This is the boost With his emergency powers extended through February 15, 2022, Governor Lamont has extended his order requiring masks for everyone in K-12 public schools until further notice, in an effort to continue Connecticut’s mission of providing safe, in-person learning. “In-person classroom education— there’s no substitute for it,” he emphasized, reiterating that protocols such as masking in school buildings and having fully vaccinated teachers and staff are critical to ensuring safe, healthy learning environments. “We appreciate the governor’s effort to ensure the safety of all by continuing to require masks and having as many vaccinated people in our schools as possible,” said CEA President Kate Dias. Dias and CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey held virtual meetings with local education association leaders throughout the state to hear teachers’ input into key issues for the 2021-2022 school year. “We spoke at great length about vaccine and mask mandates, concerns about quarantine impacts and the use Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. Their first stop was the newly

everyone needed, considering everything we’ve been through. It’s great to see teachers and students come into a brand-new building and have the support of educators and policymakers at the national level.” “This beautiful school is second to the beautiful community within the school,” Dr. Cardona remarked. Having taught in Meriden for years, he commended longtime Waterbury teacher Hayes for her push for equity, access, and a voice for all students, adding, “You’re an educator through and through, so you know this: A school is not the building; it’s the people in it.” Recalling his recent travels throughout the United States to visit schools, Cardona—who served as Connecticut’s education commissioner before accepting a position at the federal level—noted that in Connecticut, student health and wellness are paramount, as is protecting school staff. “I was in Oregon, I was in Los Angeles, I was in Puerto Rico and in the Midwest, and I really feel like Connecticut is a high bar in terms of making sure what we’re doing is putting students at the center. I’m Connecticut, and to know so many of the folks who are in this room right now and what you do day in and day out for our students. The intentional collaboration that makes school fortunate to have come from Connecticut, to be educated in of sick time, school reopening policies around visitors, convocation, and open houses, and more,” Dias said. “From those meetings and in traveling to school districts and listening to local teachers, we’ve heard concerns from many who favor a vaccine mandate, and others who want the ability for monitored exceptions.” She added that the executive order stipulating that anyone choosing not to get vaccinated must be tested each week “is a reasonable accommodation and should result in greater safety and almost everyone being vaccinated.” Governor Ned Lamont’s focus on safe schools is the right approach, says CEA President Kate Dias.


additional counselors, we have an amazing new school, we have apprentice teachers coming in and helping. Take advantage of this. That means every teacher, board of ed, and superintendent should give the very best ideas so that we can show the Secretary what we’re doing in Connecticut, and he can take it around the country.” Dias said CEA is continuing to work hard to advocate for safe, in-person learning and the resources that make it possible, adding, “Teachers are the professionals who know what’s best

reopening possible happens when everyone puts their heads together. It’s not easy to make difficult decisions and unpopular decisions, but when we make decisions thinking about the health and safety of our students, it’s the right thing to do.” Acknowledging that schools have historically been pressed to do more with less, the governor said federal COVID relief funding now allows schools and teachers to innovate and use their imaginations. “Take some of the funding resources we got from the Secretary and put them to good use,” he urged. “Make sure we give all of our kids the best opportunity coming out of what was a pretty tough year last year. Hitting the ground, I know we have

for their students, and we are committed to ensuring learning environments that are inclusive, healthy, and safe.”

L-R: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan, CEA President Kate Dias, U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, and Governor Ned Lamont joined forces to advocate for safe, in-person learning.

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