Some Conn. schools delay return amid COVID surge

Several Connecticut school districts delayed the return to classes Monday following the holiday break, citing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.

The move comes after Gov. Ned Lamont said last week that he would not support a return to remote learning in Connecticut school districts.

Schools were closed Monday in districts including Westport, Enfield and Region 14 (Woodbury and Bethlehem). Schools in Stratford and Stonington said they would be closed both Monday and Tuesday.

"Our administrative team has worked diligently throughout the winter break in an effort to prepare for our return to school tomorrow," Stonington officials said in a statement Sunday. "However, at this point in time it is not safely feasible for us to open our schools tomorrow and Tuesday.

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Other school districts delayed opening for two hours Monday in order to assess and address any staffing shortages due to positive COVID-19 tests.

The state last week reported 1,021 positive COVID-19 tests among school students, despite schools being closed for the holidays. That came a week after the state reported more than 3,000 positive tests among students in grades kindergarten through high school.

The Lamont administration has told schools that remote learning will only be allowed on a class-by-class basis when there are significant COVID-19 infections. There will be exceptions made for students in special circumstances, such as a medical condition that makes them or a family member unusually susceptible to the virus.

"The state of Connecticut does not consider remote learning as an alternative this year to in-school days, and any remote days for the district would need to be made up," West Hartford Superintendent Tom Moore said in a letter to parents. "We also do not have the staffing necessary to set up a large scale remote learning school like we did last year."

Gov. Ned Lamont, speaking in Stamford Monday, said the state is sending 500,000 rapid tests to Connecticut schools over the next few days to make sure that staff and students are safe.

"I'm really pleased that the overwhelming majority of our schools are open," he said.

Many colleges and universities in Connecticut, including Yale and UConn have announced they will start their spring semesters online.

UConn and other schools, including Connecticut College, have also told students they will be required to have booster shots once they are eligible for them.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Connecticut has risen over the past two weeks from 2,306 on Dec. 18 to 5,090 on Jan. 1, according to John's Hopkins.

But Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state's health commissioner, said most of the cases, especially among the vaccinated, are mild.

"As you heard about what happens with viruses as they adapt over time, they do become more infectious and less virulent," she said. "But for the unvaccinated, this is still a very serious disease."