Ellington school board, superintendents raise concerns about state law affecting instruction

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Jul. 2—ELLINGTON — Laws addressing student mental and physical health that went into effect on Friday have raised concerns from the local Board of Education and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

The association sent out a statement applauding most of Public Act 22-80, which was adopted by the General Assembly on May 24 and primarily extends grants to provide mental health services to students and childcare for youngsters, but highlighted two amendments that they say were added at the "last minute" and not beneficial.

The town school board wrote a letter on May 31, echoing the same concerns and requested that Gov. Ned Lamont call a special session to have a more transparent discussion on the two issues.

The first touches on the prohibition of dual instruction and remote learning.

The letter sent by the association states that taking away remote learning doesn't help those who can't attend in-person classes because of a physical or mental illness. It also mentions how banning dual instruction strips high school students of the opportunity to pair with other schools in the study of language.

"We have taken a huge step backwards and have done so without justification," the letter stated.

However, a response letter sent out by the Connecticut Education Association disputes that, saying "nothing in this ban prohibits that."

The CEA also agreed, however, that dual teaching does help solve the problems of students with an illness. They turn their cameras off and do not engage with their classmates or teachers and are simply "watching class," the CEA wrote.

The second concern raised is about school staff working with students being required to take an uninterrupted, minimum 30-minute lunch break.

"It was put forward without any discussion and without any cognizance of how that would effect districts to be instituted July of 2022," Frances Rabinowitz, executive director of CAPSS said.

The letter further stated that even a five-minute reduction in the day would cost a school 15 hours of instruction time a year.

The letter sent by the Ellington school board informed the CEA that they would have to cut down instruction time by 18 minutes every full school day. This would result in the loss of 9.5 school days a year.

Collin covers East Windsor and Windsor Locks for the Journal Inquirer.