Board Conflicted Over Coronavirus Response

Board Conflicted Over Coronavirus Response

Rylie Walker, Reporter

On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, there was a Special Board of Education meeting regarding the newly elected Board of Education members and an update on the Covid-19 situation across all Stamford Public Schools, at which several board members clashed over the effectiveness of the district’s pandemic response.

Michael Fernandes, one of three assistant superintendents, led the committee meeting regarding the coronavirus update.

The first update was the increase of Distance Learning students within the last couple of weeks. Due to the rise of positive cases within SPS, many teachers have had to quarantine, leaving the remaining teachers questioning if they will have coverage for their classes. The Human Resources department is looking into hiring more substitutes to prepare for more teachers who may have to quarantine. 

In the meantime, the BOE met with all principals on the morning of December 1 to discuss what they think is the next best step. Each school must develop a plan to prepare to move into full distance learning.

Describing this meeting, Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero said, “this changes by week and by day.”

Aaron Winchell, a senior from Stamford High, spoke out about his experience at school. He stated his concern on the growing numbers of cases through the SHS community and how the set standards are not meeting our “stated” safety precautions.

Winchell said he has seen many students not following the social distancing measure, not wearing their masks correctly or at all. Earlier that week, he had sent an email to Lucero stating these concerns. Her response said that she would remind Mr. Manka about these protocols, and that he would make daily reminders to all students. 

Another public speaker was Jeff Bianco, a teacher at Northeast Elementary School, who said he was very concerned about how the BOE was handling the COVID-19 response. Bianco said he believes that the BOE is avoiding the reality of the coronavirus situation.

Bianco said he is “waiting for a person of the school community to die, but that might not even do it to close down school.” He captured everyone’s attention with this statement and went straight to suggesting that all SPS students and teachers go to full distance learning until Martin Luther King Day to save the integrity of our school system as a whole.

The main discussion of this meeting resulted in a heated argument among BOE members. According to Lucero, the turnaround time for a positive testing case is around 48-72 hours to notify both the person and the school. However, this brought board member Nicola Tarzia to state that he has heard from many different parents and students that the real turnaround time for their covid test results is 4-5 days.

Lucero responded by stating that whether you go to a free testing site or a private testing site will determine that turnaround time. Mayor David Martin then stepped in to say that there are many free testing sites around Stamford, and each varies the time of a test result depending on how busy that particular area is, effectively ending the debate.

The SPS’s position is that they are currently going through a very heavy and serious situation that needs to be brought under control before getting out of hand. Past President of the BOE Andy George said,  ‘we are fighting the fight every day.”