Lamont: I Don’t See Any In-Person Graduations This June, but Maybe Later

Gov. Ned Lamont focused on education in his daily coronavirus update on Tuesday, May 5, and expressed his own disappointment about ordering Connecticut’s public schools to remain closed and extending distance learning through the end of the school year.

“I wanted to be the education governor,” he said, adding, “Now I’m the guy who has to say we’re not going to continue the school year in this cycle.”

Deciding against re-opening schools for the academic year was a choice the governor isn’t happy about.

“It breaks my heart. We were pretty early on in terms of a lot of the social distancing and protocols we put into place. I wanted to do everything I could to find some way to keep the school year at least partially open just for a couple weeks, some sense of conclusion for our students,” he said.

Lamont said an infection rate that’s not under control in some places and the fact that some teachers and administrators travel some distance to work from other towns were factors that went into his decision.

The governor then dashed the hopes of high school seniors and their families across the state waiting to learn if their graduations would be in-person or virtual.

“Obviously our recommendation is probably a virtual graduation is the best way to go, we don’t see any in-person graduations this June, if I had to make an estimate right now. We’re still looking at what happens later, and seeing if you can have an outside graduation with appropriate social distancing, and I think a determination on that will be made at a later time,” he said.

He wasn’t enthused about an effort called One Class, One Graduation, a campaign by some residents to hold all Connecticut high school graduations on the same day.

“What I’ve heard from the Reopen Committee is the idea of doing one big thing on the same day across the state is probably not the right way to go. But they’ve reserved the option to say maybe we can have some outside graduations later on in the year, depending on the facts on the ground,” Lamont said.

His Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona spoke to the seniors directly, saying educators across the state “have been working hard trying to find a safe and appropriate way to honor your accomplishments. You worked hard and deserve to be honored,” later adding, “We know graduations are such an important part of the experience.”

GOOD Morning Wilton has reached out to Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith for comment. Neither he nor Wilton High School principal Dr. Robert O’Donnell has yet released any information regarding plans for graduation for Wilton’s Class of 2020, although a committee of WHS administrators, parents, and students have been working on alternative options to the traditional ceremony at the high school’s stadium.

With the briefing falling on Teacher Appreciation Day, Cardona thanked Connecticut teachers for their work adjusting to distance learning. “While we know it’s not the same, I want to acknowledge all the educators who have given tirelessly to their students, while tending to their families and caring for their loved ones.”

There will be an effort to increase summer learning, what Lamont called “catching up.”

Cardona said further guidance on summer school would be given later this month, and that with proper social distancing and improving trends, he “hopes” to provide summer school options in July.

Furthermore, Cardona said the CT Education Committee of the Reopen Task Force is “actively planning what a safe re-entry would look like.” While details will take a while to work out, he said that the state hopes to receive Federal funding via the CARES act, which may be used to pay for things like PPE for teachers.

Summer Camp will Happen–in a Modified Way

Beth Bye, Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, also appeared by Zoom at the briefing, and said that her team is developing rules for summer camps, which will be released on May 15, so that summer camps can open with proper social distancing protocols and “added protective measures.”

“Summer Camps can open on June 29. That gives more time and they will also have very specific guidance,” she said.

Bye also noted that both summer school classes and camps would be limited to groups of 10.

Who You Callin’ ‘Dumb’?

On a separate note, one other stand-out moment occurred when Lamont was giving his general update. The governor called out people who have been protesting at the capital and the governor’s residence to demonstrate against restrictions he’s put in place to try to stem the spread of the disease within CT, calling them “dumb”. He mentioned protesters who drove by his residence beeping horns and shouting, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

“‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ You know, we can all be Libertarians and you should be free to be dumb if you want to, but not if it endangers others. And that’s what is so deadly about COVID, that you’re not just endangering yourself, but by being lax and not taking the social distancing seriously, endangers everybody else,” he said.

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