Lamont Faces Pressure to Allow Funding for Air Quality in Public Schools

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After receiving $995 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, advocates for towns, school districts, teachers, superintendents and other staff are asking the legislature to include repairs for school ventilation systems in the statewide plan for the additional federal dollars.  “The Connecticut General Assembly’s approval of Governor Lamont’s spending plan for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan must include HVAC repairs needed by local public schools across the state; and HVAC repairs must be included as part of the State Department of Education’s annual bond funding to towns for school construction and repairs,” according to Kevin Maloney of

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CEO Marna Borgstrom to Retire in March after 43 Years at Yale New Haven

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After 43 years at Yale New Haven Hospital and Health System, Chief Executive Officer Marna Borgstrom, announced that she will be retiring on March 25, of 2022.  “I have loved growing the Yale New Haven Health System and being part of this really incredible organization,” Borgstrom said.  The board of Yale New Haven Health voted this morning to appoint Chris O’Connor, the current president of the Health System, to the position upon her retirement.  O’Connor, who was born at Yale New Haven Hospital, also served as the chief operating officer at Yale New Haven Health and the head of Saint

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A Shortage of Bus Drivers Stymies Return of School Across Connecticut

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On the first day of school in Hamden, 300 students were left without a school bus route, and were told instead to take public transit or have a parent drive them to school. “We were just informed by the bus company that they do not have coverage for 7 bus routes affecting Hamden Public Schools, St. Rita’s and Sacred Heart Academy. There is a nationwide bus shortage which has impacted many school districts across the country,” read a notice posted by Hamden Middle School’s Parent Teacher Association on Saturday afternoon. According to First Student, the bus company that works with

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Yale Doctors Warn of Breakthrough COVID Infections, Counsel for Masks

As of August 23, in Connecticut 369 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s three times more than just one month ago.  “We are going to see a handful to more than 100 cases in the hospital in a cyclic fashion, up and down for about a year or two,” predicted Dr. Tom Balcezak, the chief medical officer for Yale New Haven Health System at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.  Compared to the peak in spring 2020, that surge might not seem like much, but compared to one month and one year ago, it is considerable, Balcezak said. And it’s

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Taking Stock of the Learning Losses as Schools Reopen for the Fall Semester

In two weeks, Megan Szczesny’s 8-year-old daughter will be starting third grade in Madison public schools. She hasn’t attended traditional all-day, five-day-a-week classes without wearing a mask since she was in first grade and being diagnosed with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “When COVID first hit in March 2020 the schools closed and we panicked,” remembered Szczesny. “Our services were cut by 85 percent, so we had to seek outside help.”  Even in a normal classroom setting, with one-on-one support and special education, Szczesny’s daughter struggled.  But without most of that support, at-home remote education was a disaster. 

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Nursing Homes Face Further Labor Squeeze With Mandated Vaccination

Last week Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order requiring staff at all long-term care facilities in Connecticut to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 7.  “We know for a fact that COVID-19 presents increased risk of severe illness and death among older adults, particularly those who have chronic conditions and compromised immune systems,” Lamont said. “Now that vaccines are widely available and scientifically proven to be safe and the most effective method for preventing hospitalization and death, it would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility to not receive this

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Flooding, 7 Dead Beavers, Spark Local Action in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Two years after the town’s Open Space Commission voted to allow beaver activity to continue unhindered on the Ames property, local officals plan to install three beaver management devices at the Whippoorwill Road and Buttonball Road culverts. “We do have a plan to address beaver activity with our mandate, and we will work with abutting property owners who are adversely affected by flooding originating on open space land,” said Gregory Futoma, a member of the Open Space Commission. This summer, during an aerial survey of the Ames property to assess the rising water levels that prevented a

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Goulding Talks COVID, Party Politics and 8 Years on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Ed

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After eight years on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education, Rick Goulding, along with three other members, including the current chair Diane Linderman, will not seek re-election this November, leaving nearly half of the seats open for first-time members. “Eight years was enough of a contribution to the community for now,” Goulding said. “We decided family-wise and job-wise it just didn’t make sense to continue.”  According to Goulding, when he first took his seat on the board in 2013 it was a very different time politically. “At the time I reached out to both parties before the election and they

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COVID Underscores Longer Trends, and a Longing to Come Together for the Faithful

On January 2, at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, my daughter was baptized into the Catholic Church.  It was a strange ceremony, what with us all wearing masks and seated far apart, spread out across the pews, but in one way I’m grateful she was born and christened in the middle of the pandemic. It meant that my family members all across the country, who would never have been able to travel to New Haven even under normal circumstances, were able to watch and laugh right along with us as she shrieked for nearly

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As COVID Overwhelms Mental Health Availability, Providers Move to Self-Pay

Joy Zelikovsky expanded her therapy practice — Nourish the Heart Counseling — from a part-time, side hustle to a full-time job with four employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.  “We are completely full and I have a waiting list,” Zelikovsky said. “I get anywhere between two and five referrals a week.”  While that’s great for job security, Zelikovsky said, it makes the process of finding a therapist for anyone suffering from mental health disorders incredibly challenging.  “It is a serious problem ranging from available beds for residential eating disorder treatment and psychiatric problems to outpatient therapy,” she said. “We are starting

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Eastern Connecticut ‘Dreamers’ Navigate Life After Graduation, and Politics of Immigration

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Editor’s note: the subject of this story has requested anonymity as a condition for speaking on the record. His name has been changed to protect his identity. As a child, Patrick arrived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Without the chance to qualify for financial aid or most merit scholarships in his home state, he grew up knowing that attending college was likely impossible.  But everything changed in 2016 when he received a scholarship from TheDream.US, a private program that has provided scholarships to more than 3,000 students to attend one of more than 70 partnering colleges. “TheDream.US

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Districts Opt to Exclude Remote Learners from High School Prom

Almost every person who attended public high school has a story about prom: dress shopping, asking out a date, over-the-top photo shoots, after parties, the list goes on.  In 2020, just two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, no one was surprised when the big event was cancelled at almost every school in the state. But one year later, when most districts are able to host prom, students who have chosen to continue distance learning may still be left out. “I understand that the school wants to abide by COVID-19 guidelines, but it is completely unacceptable and unfair that distance learners

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Local and State Efforts to Change Connecticut’s Public School Curriculum Inch Forward

If House Bill 6619 passes, Connecticut will have a new curriculum available by 2023 for public school students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The bill would combine several previously proposed bills that included LGBTQ+ studies and Native American studies, and would add Asian Pacific American studies, climate change, personal financial management and financial literacy, and military service and experience of American veterans. The legislation follows protests last year that in part called for substantial changes to school curricula, and a 2019 law requiring all public schools to offer Black and Latino Studies electives.  “Recent civil and political discourse has demonstrated

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As Vaccines Show Effectiveness, COVID Cases Hit Youth

Last week, 40 percent of positive COVID-19 tests at Yale-New Haven Health were the B.1.1.7, or UK, variant. “Once [the UK variant] gets a toe-hold it overtakes the other variants and becomes the dominant variant,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, the Chief Medical Officer at Yale-New Haven Health. “But, the vaccine prevents that spread.” In other words, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all prevent the spread of the UK variant in addition to the original strain.  “So, get vaccinated,” said Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale-New Haven Health.  As of Sunday, in Connecticut 40 percent of the state population

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Documentary Highlights Arrival of Invasive to the Lower Connecticut River

Invading the CT River- The Spread of Hydrilla from Emily DeLuca on Vimeo. More than 200 acres of the lower third of the Connecticut River is overgrown with hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant that spreads easily on the underside of boats, tangled in paddles and latched onto life-preservers. In 2019, the plant had yet to be identified in the river.  In an effort to halt the spread, State Representative Christine Palm, D-Chester, is calling for funds to develop a statewide, coordinated management plan. “What I realized was no one knows about it,” said Emily DeLuca, a freelance multimedia journalist and

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Without Delegation Support, Danbury’s $25 Million and Charter Schools in Doubt

DANBURY — A $25 million donation hangs in the balance if Danbury Prospect Charter School remains unfunded by state legislators for a third consecutive year.  In 2018, two Charter Schools — Danbury Prospect and Norwalk Excellence — were granted an initial certificate of approval by the Department of Education, but the schools cannot open until the legislature agrees to provide funding. In February, an anonymous donor pledged $25 million to the construction of Danbury Prospect contingent on annual funding from the state. So far, the chances don’t look good.  “Funding for the charter school was not included in Governor Lamont’s

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A Debate Over Charter Schools that Complicates Partisan Lines

If Senate Bill 949 passes, all taxpayer funded schools – public, charter, vocational and magnet – will receive no less than $11,525 in funding through a combination of state and local monies.  In other words, all publicly-funded schools would receive a “foundation amount” for the first time.  “Charter schools have never received the full foundation amount, we’ve gradually been bringing it up,” said State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the state Appropriations Committee. In total, almost 11,000 students attend charter schools, about 2 percent of the total student population, and this year each charter school received $11,250 per pupil. 

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Legislators Aim to Bridge Connecticut’s Gap on Dyslexia

After four previous attempts by the legislature to improve Connecticut’s approach to identifying and educating children with dyslexia, the state’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee is proposing a new bill to ensure that teachers are sufficiently trained to handle students with dyslexia. Despite peer-review research suggesting that between 5 and 10 percent of the population has dyslexia, just 2,294 students across Connecticut were identified with dyslexia in the 2018-19 school year. That number amounts to well under one percent of the student population. In Connecticut, of students identified with a specific learning disability, less than one percent have also

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A New England Grain Renaissance

“There is a world of difference between fresh and commercial flour,” said Andy D’Appollonio, the owner of Still River Farm in Coventry. A difference that can best be described with one word, according to D’Appollonio, taste.  “It’s more robust,” D’Appollonio, who started growing wheat on his farm six years ago. “The bread is brown, crusty with large air holes, it’s a big difference.”  D’Appollonio is part of a grain renaissance in New England. Small, grain farms like his have popped up across the Northeast, especially in Maine.  “Bakers want it fresh,” D’Appollonio said. “When you buy local you can ensure

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Five Changes for Nursing Homes That Are Here To Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the long-term care industry on its head after causing the death of 3,856 residents — more than half of the total number of deaths statewide, according to the state Department of Public Health figures. It’s unlikely that nursing homes will be the same. Here are five changes that are likely here to stay. 1. Lower occupancy, more competition, better care On average, nursing home occupancy declined 15 percent across Connecticut from January to September 2020, according to data reported by the state. That decline does not come from deaths alone.  “Consumers confidence in the model of

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Yale New Haven Health Reports ‘Zero’ Cases of Flu Across its 6 Hospitals

From Greenwich to Rhode Island, there have been no diagnosed cases of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the Yale New Haven Health System this season. Typically, at this time of year, there are hundreds of cases across the six hospitals in the health system.  “As of last week, we still had zero flu cases,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, the chief medical officer at Yale-New Haven Health. “It’s one bright spot, particularly for children who are hard hit by flu and RSV each year. Due to the precautions we’ve taken for COVID-19, there will be many fewer deaths of

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Legislation Frees Stay-at-Home Commuters from a $500 Million Tax Bill, But Bends Process

The state budget proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont calls for Connecticut to concede $500 million of tax revenue — the majority from households earning more than $100,000 each year — in an effort to relieve the added burden of double taxation from as many as 110,000 tax filers in the state. These Connecticut residents in normal years would have commuted out of state to work — mainly into New York from Fairfield County — but have been working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the current laws, known as convenience laws, these Connecticut residents would owe income taxes

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Federal Tax Case for Commuters a $400+ Million Question for Connecticut

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In 2018, 86,606 Connecticut residents paid $1.35 billion in New York state income taxes, according to the Empire Center. That was lost revenue for Connecticut – because the state credits residents for taxes paid out of state – but it also made sense. They commuted to New York, worked in New York, and were paid in New York.  In March 2020, that all changed.  With restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, thousands of workers who typically commuted across state lines were told to work from home.  As for their taxes? It’s now unclear which state has the

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Franklin-Based Forester Talks Managed Woodlands

“When you walk through a forest that’s starting to age it just doesn’t look good,” said Joan Nichols, a professional forester based in Franklin Connecticut. “It would be like if the entire population of the state of Connecticut was all 90, it’s not good for the individuals and it’s not good for the state.”  About 65 percent of Connecticut is forested. “Anywhere you drive you see trees, and everyone loves to learn about trees,” she said. “They love to learn about trees, about forest health…everybody thinks it’s great until we got to cut trees down. Some people have a mindset

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Social Isolation Takes its Toll on Vulnerable Youth, Doctors Say

As a matter of physical health, or at least mortality, COVID-19 has left children largely unscathed. Of the more than 7,000 associated deaths in Connecticut, just 5 were in young people aged 19 and under, according to the Department of Public Health. But the isolation required by the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus has left its mark on many of Connecticut’s youngest residents.  At Yale-New Haven Health there are more children admitted after suicide attempts, more children treated with severe eating disorders and more children coming in, period, according to Dr. Claudia Moreno, a pediatric psychiatrist

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Mobile Population Tests Phased Vaccine Strategy for Nursing Homes in Connecticut

At every nursing home in Connecticut in January, between 90 and 100 percent of residents received a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the state Department of Public Health, vaccinations that greatly slowed the spread of the virus within each facility. In the last three weeks of January COVID-19 cases reported in nursing homes declined by 66 percent, according to the state Department of Public Health. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has estimated that herd immunity requires about 75 percent of a population to be vaccinated. But as the state begins phase 1b of

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Environmentalists Tout Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity with Dam Relicensing on Connecticut River

Almost 60 years after the start of efforts on the Connecticut River to restore native fish, including Atlantic Salmon and alewife, environmentalists are touting a major breakthrough for migratory species.  Currently, three dams – Wilder, Bellows Falls and Vernon — in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont are up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and all of have critical roles in restricting fish passage up and down the longest river in New England.  “FERC recognized that there is an advantage to these dams being relicensed as a system,” said Andrea Donlon, a river steward for the Connecticut

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A Plan to Pay Student Loans of Connecticut College Grads Who Stay in State

Helping college graduates repay their student loans could be an answer to slowing the loss of population from Connecticut and to increasing the state’s tax revenue, according to State Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, ranking member on the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee . “We’ve continually invested in the brick and mortar of our state institutions, it’s time we support the brains and bodies of the people that are utilizing the buildings,” Witkos said in an interview with CT Examiner. The legislation, called “Learn-Work-Pay,” would help any Connecticut resident who attends one of the state’s public universities and then

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Environmentalists Return to Unfinished Work Cut Short by Pandemic

From updating the bottle bill to modernizing the electric grid, environmental advocates are looking at 2021 as a second chance to tackle legislation that got left behind in 2020. The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters spent Tuesday afternoon discussing the impending “waste crisis” facing the state as the largest trash-to-energy incinerator, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), is set to close in 2022. The conversation could almost have taken place one year ago as the majority of environmental legislation never made it to a vote during the shortened 2020 legislative session.  “A lot of environmental legislation stalled last year

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By Far the Most Important Lesson

Never begin reporting a story believing you know the ending. Throughout my seven years as a reporter, it is by far the most important lesson I have learned and one I often wish others would take to heart. Whether it is a routine municipal meeting, a new data set or a tip received, deciding the message before gathering all the facts and feelings from those involved will not yield a worthwhile, or precise, story. It will prevent you from asking the necessary follow up questions or being open to an alternative explanation. If you decide the message before you finish

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