HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The state of Connecticut is providing local school districts with an additional $160 million to help them reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday.
Those funds are in addition to two earlier grants provided to schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, for a total of $266 million. Most of the money comes from federal funding. The Democratic governor said it reflects one of the largest per-student funding plans in the U.S.
“I think this gives you an idea about the priorities that we’ve got, the fact that the teachers in the school, we’ve got your back, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and we’re prioritizing all the ways you can get back to school safely,” Lamont said.
The funds will be spent on things like computers and internet hot zones for low-income students who may need distance learning; personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for schools; bus monitors to help students socially distance; additional bus routes in high-density areas to spread out the number of students on buses; additional staff to provide both remote schooling and in-school teaching; and support staff for students with special needs.
State officials required local districts to come up with three school reopening plans: a full in-school program, a hybrid program that includes both in-school and distance learning, and a full distance learning plan. They were also asked to provide cost estimates, which were used to help determine the grant amounts.
Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said Thursday that so far more than 55% of the state’s school districts are planning to offer full, in-person learning in the fall semester, while 44% are planning some form of hybrid learning, which could include some buildings offering full, in-person learning for younger students.
“Throughout the state of Connecticut I think most agree that we need to get our students in the classroom, learning in a safe environment,” Cardona said.
Connecticut on Thursday reported a third consecutive day without a COVID-19-related death. It was the seventh day in the past month that no new deaths were reported.
As of Thursday, a total of 4,437 people have died in the state of causes related to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the state saw just 20 new COVID-19 cases reported out of 8,984 tests performed.
“That’s a .2% positivity rate. That is by far the best we’ve been since the start of COVID,” Lamont said. “And we’re not trending in the right direction, but holding the line and this is a very good number.”
Officials in Fairfield are monitoring dozens of people for possible COVID-19 infections after seven young adults and parents who attended several gatherings around town last weekend and have tested positive.
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick announced about 40 people had come in contact with the seven who became infected and they’re currently being monitored.
“While indoor gatherings of 25 people or 100 people outdoors are allowed by the governor’s executive order,” Kupchick said, “this is a reminder that organizers of such events need to be diligent in continuing to ensure social distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands and advising people to stay home if they do not feel well.”
Fairfield Health Department Director Sands Cleary said no one specific gathering is suspected as a source of the outbreak. He said the infected individuals attended at least four parties and gatherings, including a barbecue.