Connecticut announces new testing, masking policies as school year approaches
The Connecticut Department of Education on Tuesday released new guidelines for the 2022-23 school year that are heavily focused on in-person learning, including a new masking and testing strategy that allows students with mild symptoms to attend school under certain circumstances.
In addition to the new testing and masking strategies, the guidelines include vaccine recommendations; free self-test kits at all public schools, child-care programs and camps in the state; and vaccination-clinic vans for the state’s 36 Alliance Districts.
“In-person learning and socialization are the best way for students to thrive and be successful,” said John Frassinelli, division director at the State Department of Education.
The new masking/testing strategy is called “Test-Mask-Go.” Previously any student with symptoms has been asked to stay home, regardless of severity, according to Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.
Under the new strategy, students with mild symptoms — like an infrequent cough, congestion, or runny nose — will have the option to take a self-test and come into school if they test negative under these conditions: They must have a temperature under 100 degrees, must not live with anyone who has had COVID-19 in the previous two weeks and wear a mask “consistently and correctly.”
Students who meet these conditions and feel well enough to attend school, their camp or program will be allowed to attend in person, according to the guidelines.
“If you have mild respiratory symptoms, we are urging schools to consider the policy of testing your child,” Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani said during a press conference. “They’re negative, consider putting a mask on and going to school. Because being in school is going to be what’s most important.”
Juthani said that being in school is critical for a child’s well-being, ability to learn and progression in life.
The state has purchased 2.5 million test kits, or 5 million tests, to distribute to school districts and early-childhood programs, according to the guidelines. The tests are free and available to students and staff, including bus drivers and other key service providers.
The state also plans to order additional tests to give to licensed child-care programs and youth camps.
“Since the start of the 2021 school year, we have administered thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to children throughout the state and we have distributed millions of self-test kits — these have all been major game changers in the fight against COVID-19,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a release Tuesday. “The goal ... is to maintain in-person learning for our children as much as possible and to keep them healthy and learning all year long.”
CSDE has not changed its guidelines for when a student tests positive, Juthani said. A student who tests positive will still have to isolate for five days following the test, with the day of the positive counting as “day zero,” she said.
Students with a fever should not return to school until 24 hours after it has subsided, the guidelines said.
It will also make vaccination vans available for the state’s 36 Alliance Districts — Connecticut’s lowest-performing 30 school districts and six districts previously in the bottom 30.
The schedule for when vans are going to be at schools is still being determined, according to Juthani said. Other districts will have access to the vans on an as-requested basis, according to the guidelines.
The state is also encouraging students to receive their booster vaccine going into this school year, and recommending students get the flu vaccine as well.
“The CSDE is looking forward to providing support to our districts throughout the upcoming school year to ensure uninterrupted student attendance and engagement, ultimately leading to student growth and success!” Russell-Tucker said.
Russell-Tucker said the guidance they put out “allows families to have action steps they can take” to help make decisions regarding their students.
Guidance documents have been shared with districts and officials had a video call with district superintendents Tuesday morning, according to the release.
The guidelines can be read in full at portal.ct.gov.
Mike Mavredakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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