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Monday, February 07, 2022
OPED: Keeping Kids in School, by Tony Hwang
In-Person Learning During COVID: The Key for CT’s Educational and Emotional Recovery
While there are many questions, challenges and opinions on how schools should handle the ever-changing dynamics of the COVID pandemic, I strongly believe that keeping kids IN school is the best decision for Newtown's present and future educational and emotional recovery.
All accommodations need to be considered and implemented to enable in-person learning to continue while preserving the students’ and staff members’ health, safety and peace of mind. We must work together to support our local school district superintendents and families. They continue to function under constantly changing conditions which extend much further than educating our children. The harsh reality of labor and funding shortages combined with inconsistent state policies and communications are creating untenable chaos for everyone involved.
The interconnection between a community and its school system cannot be underestimated. Keeping kids in school enables the parents to work, which allows them to provide needed services, which in many cases is what allows businesses to remain open and offices to fully function. Parents who face the repeated challenges of needing to work around school closures or quarantines are tired, frustrated, and in some cases even putting their professional livelihoods in jeopardy. For those who must physically be at their workplace, they are constantly pulled away and left unable to effectively perform their duties. For those who are attempting to complete their job responsibilities while parenting at home, they are dealing with a constant juggling act that too often leaves them feeling like they are coming up short both at work AND at home.
Beyond the consequential ripple effect that educational closures and inconsistencies cause for families, there is measurable evidence that hybrid and prolonged remote learning has negatively impacted children’s academic progress, mental health, stress levels and social-emotional development.
Connecticut’s child care and education systems are foundational to the overall quality of life and economic success of our state.
Recent news highlighted the “child care crisis” that the state is facing. This comes on top of all the other pandemic-amplified educational shortfalls which are equally problematic. I am in constant communication with Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood to ensure that child care centers, nursery schools and summer camps have the tools, resources and protocols they need to provide a safe and comforting environment for our children - but we need to do more.
Focused on the primary goal of keeping schools and child care facilities open and safe, the state needs to step up and speed up the investment, development and implementation of long-term, practical and structural solutions to address COVID concerns and challenges. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the coronavirus is going to be a part of our lives for the long term. Solutions need to be implemented as permanent structural changes and not as band-aid fixes or one-time events.
Connecticut must expand the availability of COVID testing capabilities either by increasing PCR testing centers or readily provide at-home test kits so school staff and parents/students can make informed decisions and limit their exposure to and prevent spread of the virus.
I am not in favor of statewide governmental mandates dictating “bodily choice” behaviors, but I am in favor of providing increased awareness and access to objective medical data/facts and utilizing all available outreach tools to encourage testing, vaccination and safety practices. We need to create an environment to empower and listen to our educational leaders, parents and caregivers so that we can collaboratively make the best sustainable decisions that account for and respect families and communities along with their unique circumstances.
Our state government needs to focus on proactive actions to support people’s confidence and comfort in sending their children to learn in-person in a safe school environment. It is the foundation of what will enable the state to return to work, and create the long-desired sense of a “new” normalcy. We cannot continue to hope that we will wake up tomorrow and this whole exhausting ordeal will be behind us. Further, we cannot keep fighting over rhetoric that does not and will not solve the problem. I will continue to ask questions and offer support and solutions to enable our state, for our children’s sake, to move forward.
Deputy Senate Republican Leader Tony Hwang was re-elected to his 4th term in the CT General Assembly. Hwang was just appointed ranking leader on Public Health, Insurance and Real Estate and Planning and Development Committees and member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Hwang had previously served as the ranking leader on the Public Safety and Security, Higher Education and Employment and Housing Committees. Hwang also serves as the co-chair of the bipartisan BioScience Caucus.