New Regulations Require Children Three and Up to Wear Masks in Daycare

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood has released new regulations requiring that children ages three and up wear masks in daycare and childcare centers beginning Monday, September 21. The regulations are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say that children ages two and older can and should wear masks in order to create a safe school or childcare environment.  Beth Bye, commissioner for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, said that the recommendations came on the heels of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which shows that young

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Despite the Changes, Lyme-Old Lyme Students Say They Are Glad to be Back

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It was quiet. Not your typical hustle and bustle of chattering students showing off new outfits, sharing summertime stories and class schedules. Instead, everyone – teachers and students alike – seemed nervous.   “It’s a really hard thing to put a name to, because it was the first time I ever felt that. Even though there were kids and people in the building and it should’ve been filled with that spirit and that energy of the first day of school, everybody was very hesitant and tentative and not sure what to expect,” said Marc Vendetti, a sixth grade English teacher at

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State Officials Release Guidance on Truancy for Students Enrolled in Distance Learning

Statewide, 1 in 4 students failed to participate in remote education between March and June when schools were closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. In other words, 25 percent of students were chronically absent compared to a typical school year, according to data provided by the state Department of Education, when about 10 percent of students are chronically absent. So, with about 1 in 4 students choosing to study remotely this fall, state and local administrators have expressed concern that a high rate of absenteeism will continue into the new school year. But when students are not actually attending

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Five Things to Know about the State’s New Special Education Data Management System

In an effort to improve and standardize data management for special education programs, the state Department of Education announced the purchase of a new statewide electronic management system this Tuesday. The statewide special education data system will be built this year in partnership with Public Consulting Group, piloted in select small, medium and large districts in 2021-2022 and launched across all 170 districts in the fall of 2022. Here are five things to know about how the system will change special education for staff, students and parents. #1: The system will put into place a statewide, standardized Individualized Education Plan

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State-level Officials Urge Teamwork as Tensions Mount for Reopening Schools Across Connecticut

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Connecticut Department of Education, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents urged boards of education and superintendents to prioritize teamwork this school year. “The best way to have the best outcome for students is to have a good relationship between the superintendent and the board of education,” said Spokesperson Peter Yazbak, for the state Department of Education. The statement comes after two months of tough decision-making by the 170 school districts across the state on how to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We always

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Hybrid Education Strains Working Parents as Connecticut Returns to School in the Fall

Flor Efscarcega’s daughter will be starting first grade in West Haven next week. Much like last year, her daughter’s backpack is ready, she has an outfit picked for the first day and she has arranged for after-school care. The only difference this year is that her daughter’s outfit features a mask and her after school care begins at noon. West Haven, like most school districts across Connecticut, has opted to return to school in a hybrid model — combining at-home distance learning and in-person classroom instruction. Instead of alternating days, however, West Haven has decided to send students home before

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1 in 4 Students to Opt out of Classrooms in the Fall: A Deep Dive into the Numbers

Every public school district in Connecticut is required to offer a distance learning option for parents unable or unwilling to return their children to in-person education in the fall And nearly all of Connecticut’s 530,000 public school students have the option to resume at least partial in-classroom instruction. But after reporting startling disparities in student participation in remote education in the spring, parents, and school officials serving some of Connecticut’s most disadvantaged students, are again adopting a remote model for learning in the fall. Most other districts have opted to offer a hybrid mix of in-class and distance learning, apparently

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School Reopenings Across Connecticut Ignore State Guidance, Raise Issues of Childcare

“Schools are the biggest single provider of childcare in all of Connecticut,” said Beth Bye, commissioner for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood in an interview with CT Examiner on Friday afternoon.  And according to the most recent data — judging by the standards released on July 30 by the Office of the Governor — every school district in every county in Connecticut can return this fall to classroom instruction. So the decision of nearly a hundred towns to adopt a hybrid model of instruction — combining distance learning and in-class instruction — misses the role of classroom education in

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As Connecticut Schools Prepare for Fall Classes, Officials Work to Prevent Loss of Music Instruction and Athletics

Within the next three weeks, every public school district in Connecticut will be starting classes. And every district, except New Haven, will be offering at least some in-person education. But whether those classes include music instruction remains uncertain. “When the reopen advisory committee began they were talking about removing some of the pieces of curriculum that could not possibly be delivered safely, like music, where there is a lot of potential for exposure,” said State Sen. Eric Bethel, R-Watertown, ranking member on Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee. “All of us on the Education Committee agreed this is something we had

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Positive Test Gives East Haddam Schools a Preview of Fall COVID Procedures

EAST HADDAM — Last week, East Haddam Public Schools received word that a participant in their summer school programming tested positive for COVID-19. “When I got the call, I was in a little bit of disbelief because our numbers here are incredibly good,” said Brian Reas, East Haddam superintendent. “But it was good to have a run of the process when there are so few people involved.” The process – which every school district will follow if they have a staff member or student test positive for COVID-19 – involves extensive contact tracing, two-week quarantines for everyone deemed at risk,

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Yale Offers Online Course for Public School Employees to Manage Stress and Anxiety of Students

As schools prepare to reopen in the fall, Yale University is rolling out a new online course for school educators in Connecticut on how to manage stress and emotions in the classroom.  The course, entitled “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress,” was developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and will be made available to all adults who work with students in Connecticut public schools. It is funded by Dalio Education, a philanthropic organization that has invested over $95 million in public education in Connecticut. According to Mark Brackett, the Center’s director, the 10-hour course

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In Interview, Ojakian Explains Retirement, Lists Proudest Achievements, Plans for Reopening

After 41 years in public service to the State of Connecticut, Mark Ojakian announced today that he will retire from his role as president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system at the end of 2020. “When I look at what I’ve accomplished and when I look at the team that is in place now, I see an incredibly strong and committed board of regents and a team that will be able to operate once I’m gone,” Ojakian said in an interview with CT Examiner shortly after the official announcement was made. “I wanted to leave on a high

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Despite Pandemic, Local Schools Expand or Wait-list for Fall Pre-Kindergarten Programs

In the last two years, several school districts in southeast Connecticut have decided to pilot universal pre-kindergarten programs for local three and four-year olds. Now, coronavirus-related concerns of safety, finance and teaching method, pose unforeseen challenges to educating their youngest pupils, even as the programs prove popular. The Westbrook school district, for example, introduced a universal pre-k program last year, transitioning from a half-day model to a full-day model.  The district intended to expand that program this year, before pandemic concerns put those plans on hold, and a combination of financial ramifications from COVID-19 and concerns about overpopulating classrooms meant

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State Audit Again Questions Lack of Guidelines for Special Education Spending

Schools across Connecticut spend 7.2 percent of district budgets on tuition for special education students to attend alternative schools, according to a 2018-19 report released by the state Department of Education. Tuition for these alternative schools makes up $667 million of the $9.2 billion spent on education in the state. Despite that scale of the funding — some of it federal, some state and some local – a recent audit report by the Connecticut State Auditors of Public Accounts noted that it is not possible to determine whether these public dollars are properly spent, given that there are no guidelines

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Late Start, Short Season, Regional Competition for High School Sports in Connecticut

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Friday that fall sports competition will not begin until September 24 and will last just six weeks. “There were two key factors at play in pushing back the start date for games,” said Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. “We wanted our schools to have the best chance to get back in-person or hybrid and the recommendations from our doctors and athletic trainers was that it is important to have a prescribed build-up of training since the students haven’t had any structured activity for six months.” In other words,

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New Guidance Suggests Middlesex County Schools on Track for Reopening, While New London County Lags

One week after school districts across the state were required to submit “return to school plans,” outlining in-person, hybrid and remote models of instruction, local school officials have been given guidance by the state for switching between the three plans of schooling. According to an addendum released on Thursday to the Connecticut Department of Education plan for reopening schools, local school officials are expected to base reopening decisions on “indicators of the spread and prevalence of COVID-19 in the community” and the ability of local schools to cope with the virus, given the the physical and operational constraints of district

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Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Teeter with Limited Assistance, Uncertain Enrollment, Fear of a Second Outbreak

As the start of the 2020-2021 academic year approaches, the Connecticut State College and University system has a $10 million deficit caused by spring semester room and board refunds that were not fully reimbursed by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “Moving forward our best bet is to get assistance from the Coronavirus Relief Fund,” said Ben Barnes, chief financial officer for the state college and university system. Although the Federal Emergency Relief Act has verbally confirmed that the college and university system will receive some funds, so far the system has not received any funding

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More Questions than Answers for Fall School Reopening Across Connecticut

With reopening school plans completed – including in-person, hybrid and remote models in each district – there still seem to be more questions than answers for parents, students and educators alike. For instance, what would determine whether school really does return in-person, as is currently the plan, or if districts will be told to use their hybrid or remote models instead. “We were told we would get those cut offs, like very specific cuts offs, but nothing yet,” said Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme Schools. “It seems like whether or not our schools close or all districts close will

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Daycare Industry Squeezed Between Dropping Enrollments and Growing Need as Connecticut Moves to Reopen from COVID

Four months after the Governor declared a state of emergency to slow the spread of COVID-19 and two months after the state began reopening, Connecticut’s childcare industry is operating at just 40 percent of its pre-COVID capacity, according to Commissioner of Early Childhood Beth Bye. “Three weeks ago, we were at just 16 percent capacity and now we have more than doubled that,” Bye said. “But at the same time, as it reopens, it’s very uneven.” Uneven, in the sense that in some areas of the state daycare providers are struggling to fill available slots and in others, families with

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Unions Press Local Districts Across Connecticut to Renegotiate Policies for Reopening Schools

Local teachers’ unions across the state, encouraged by the Connecticut Education Association, are asking school districts to negotiate policies for reopening schools in the fall, given the changes that will be required of staff. They are requesting that superintendents and boards of education sit down and negotiate under the Teacher Negotiations Act, which gives unions the right to negotiate whenever working conditions are altered.   “Successfully reopening schools depends largely on local districts ensuring a real voice for all stakeholders — educators, parents and other school community members — in establishing a safe and healthy school environment,” said the Association’s President

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High School Sports to Resume in Fall even as Students Remain Cohorted in the Classroom

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference plans to begin the school year with students allowed to compete in every fall sport if COVID-19 cases in the state remain low. “For the fall we are cautiously optimistic to return as scheduled, but not as normal,” said Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. “Based on the numbers in Connecticut and the Governor’s reopening plans we will be able to start football on August 17 and all other sports August 27.” The conference released rules based on guidance provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations and

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Shortened Semesters on Campus and Full Fees for Room and Board as Connecticut’s Colleges and Universities Face a Steep Fiscal Challenge

UPDATE: Due to the need for consistency across the Connecticut State College and University System, Southern Connecticut State University will not be offering pro-rated fees for the fall semester, according to Patrick Dilger, the director of integrated communications and marketing at Southern. Students will be returning to campus in the fall at Connecticut’s four state universities, but in place of the usual crowds on move-in day, the packed classrooms and extracurriculars, students can expect instead a more gradula move-in, limited group activities, a mix of online and classroom learning and regular COVID-19 testing. The biggest change, according to Mark Ojakian,

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State Announces Full Reopening of Primary and Secondary Schools in Connecticut for the Fall

Required face masks for all pre-kindergarten through high school students, as much social distancing as is feasible and back up plans upon back up plans in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 are hallmarks of the state’s plan announced today by the Connecticut Department of Education for reopening schools at the end of August. “This past school year was marked by disruption, next year’s school year will be marked by innovation and commitment,” said Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona. “It will be the most important school year for students and educators yet.” Although many educators and parents expected

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Two Norwich Tech Grads Confident in Tightened Job Market, New Apprenticeship

For many 2020 high school and college graduates the future feels uncertain. Finding a job or starting college during a global pandemic is far from a straight-forward decision. But for Chris Daley of Plainfield and Chance Weber of Lisbon, 2020 graduates of Norwich Technical High School, the opposite is true. “Knowing that I made ties with this company and I can stay with them and have a job right out of high school … I feel more prepared for the world,” Daley said. Daley and Weber are one and a half years into their four-year plumbing apprenticeship at Speirs Plumbing

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From 2016 Pilot Program to Graduation, ‘Dreamers’ Make Up 4 Percent of Student Body at Eastern, with a 3.8 GPA

In May, Evelyn Lemus Silva graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University as a Barnard Award recipient, the most prestigious undergraduate award bestowed by the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. She was a biology major, has a research job lined up at Stanford University and plans to go to medical school in the future. She is also an undocumented immigrant. Silva, who entered the United States from Mexico at the age of 7, is one of the first 43 students to graduate from Eastern thanks to a scholarship from TheDream.US, a privately funded program that supports undocumented immigrants and those

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As Local Officials Await State Guidance, Legislators Voice Concerns About Fall Schooling

According to the Connecticut Department of Education, the 33 lowest performing school districts – known as Alliance Districts – also have had the least student engagement since schools across Connecticut were forced to close in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Complicating their mission, Alliance Districts also serve a disproportionate share of Connecticut’s “English Learners.” Every school in Connecticut, public and private, has its own COVID-10 story, some adapting to remote education with relative ease and others with more than 10 percent of students failing to participate at all in distance learning programs. As districts plan reopening for summer

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Grant-Funded Study Helps Prepare Connecticut’s 12 Community Colleges for Consolidation

About 75 percent of graduates in 2017-18 from the 17 institutions that make up the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system were employed within three months after graduation. But less than half of students who started a degree at one of those institutions finished there within four years, according to data provided by the state system’s Office of Research and System Effectiveness.  At Eastern Connecticut State University, for example, just 45 percent complete a degree within four years and another 10 percent complete a degree after transferring to another institution.  In an effort to increase the number of students directly

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Draft Guidelines for Summer Schools Across Connecticut Prioritize Local Flexibility

On July 6, school districts across Connecticut will be allowed to begin in-person summer school, according to draft guidelines released by the Connecticut Department of Education. But in contrast to nearly every other school closure decision made during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state will allow local and regional school districts the final say on whether to reopen for summer instruction. “July 6 is the first day we could be in-person. We’ve been discussing it since it was released last week and trying to determine what is feasible and what we can do by that date,” said Jan Perruccio, the superintendent

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