Put Teachers At The Head Of The Line

Put Teachers At The Head Of The Line

Cheshire Public School District deserves a lot of praise for how it has  handled the last four-plus months of education.

That’s why we are glad to see that the state seems about to help Cheshire, and all Districts in the state, by ensuring that teachers are included on the list to be vaccinated during Phase 1B of the rollout, which is expected to begin later this month. As administrators look for ways to get more students inside school buildings more often, making sure that educators are vaccinated will do just that.

For the past four months, Cheshire has provided five-days-a-week, in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Of course, there have been starts and stops to that schedule, as COVID-related issues have forced the school to implement unscheduled full remote-learning days. But for the most part, Cheshire has stuck to its schedule.

Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan calls it basically “insane” that the District has been able to stay on course the way it has, and he credits the diligence of educators and students for sticking with mitigation protocols. While everyone deserves a pat on the back for adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing, it’s important to single out the students. After all, before in-person instruction started up in September, there was a great deal of concern expressed about how steady student mask-wearing would be during the school day. Would teachers have to spend all their time monitoring students? Would a lack of compliance lead to a serious outbreak stemming from the schools, forcing a lengthy shutdown? No one knew the answer.

But four-plus months in, students are getting an A+ for their compliance. Solan admits that, as of now, student mask-wearing isn’t even a concern. Perhaps driven by a desire to stay in school and amongst friends, albeit in a very different environment, the students are doing what they need to do in order to keep things going.

Now, the state appears ready to reward the effort of everyone involved in state education by prioritizing their inoculation.

Of course, educators shouldn’t be given priority over the most at-risk populations in our society. COVID-19 has from the beginning been particularly dangerous for certain populations and our goal as a society should be to prevent as many deaths as possible. If we don’t do then everything we’ve sacrificed in the last year will have been for nothing.

But when deciding which professions should be a priority, educators had to be included.

Over the course of the last 12 months, we’ve learned that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, and the incredible advances in technology that allow for more robust remote learning experiences, there just isn’t a substitute for in-person learning. That teacher-student dynamic is essential, but so is all the ancillary learning that comes from being in a social environment with one’s peers. 

Navigating friendships and conflicts as well as disappointments and successes, while learning to work both independently and in a group, are important parts of the in-school experience, even if those lessons don’t produce letter grades on report cards.

And ensuring that students stay in school, and that high school students return to a normal five-days-a-week model will do wonders for families who have had to rework schedules to accommodate for their children spending fewer hours in school per week.

Connecticut, by the numbers, is doing a good job of getting people the vaccine. Hopefully that continues and efforts only increase from here. 

Education must be at the top of the list of things the state seeks to return to normal as soon as possible. It might be a while before it looks anything like what it did pre-pandemic, but the process must start now, and it should begin with the quick dispersal of vaccines to educators.

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