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Teachers wear black as Connecticut tries to address staff shortages

Classroom desks
Emory Maiden

Connecticut unions asked teachers to wear black Wednesday to call for increased COVID-19 safety measures. And others wore red to show their support for safe in-person learning.

“I had schools that opened this week and still didn’t have masks, and that’s problematic,” Kate Dias, president of Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said in a statement.

A survey by the CEA and other unions representing more than 60,000 school staff found teachers want more remote learning and that they aren’t getting enough supplies.

Most educators and support staff said they didn’t have access to N95 masks and home testing kits when classes began last week. And 88% of respondents said they think superintendents should have the flexibility to move to remote learning for a short period of time, without having to make up the days.

Thousands of school staff in Connecticut have been out with COVID-19 since classes began, leading to some school closures. Governor Ned Lamont announced schools in Connecticut will be allowed to re-employ retired teachers to ease staffing shortages.

Lamont’s executive order lets schools bring back retired teachers or continue to employ them, even if they normally wouldn’t be able to work under some retirement conditions.

“This executive order is a critical step to providing much-needed resources to ensure we keep students in the classroom and provide them with an in-person education,” Lamont said in a statement.

Lamont said he’s optimistic the Omicron variant’s curve is flattening and teachers will soon be back to work.

“I can tell you, a lot of our really creative superintendents are out there beating the bushes, getting retirees back so we have apprentice teachers and those that can help to do everything we can to keep our kids in the classroom safely,” Lamont said.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.
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