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Pandemic Presents Superintendents With New Challenges

Pandemic Presents Superintendents With New Challenges

Source: Kevin Maloney, New Haven Independent

Running a school district is not as simple as A-B-C, and with the Delta variant and HVAC issues, it’s going to take collaboration from all sides to make education work. 
That was the lesson learned from Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), when she came on “The Municipal Voice,” a co-production of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and WNHH 103.5 FM. 

“I believe that the Superintendent plays a very pivotal role in either moving the district forward or keeping it stagnant or moving it backwards,” Rabinowitz said. 
Key to their success is to only have the focus of the children in mind, how to achieve success for each and every child. 
During 2020 and now much of 2021, that focus like every facet of life is on how to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The one issue that has come up over and over has been how to safely teach our children. For her, having students learn in schools is critical. 
“It’s incredibly important to build the relationship between the teacher and the children that are in their classroom,” she said, noting that test results had shown learning gaps over 2020’s remote experiment. 
No matter what age the child was, there was going to be some difficulty. For kindergartners, she imagined it would be difficult to practice reading via zoom without that guiding hand. For older kids, it was the social and emotional aspects of learning together that they missed out on. 
Optimizing the environments for learning is a complex task, one that takes an entire community to create. 
In one area in particular, CAPSS and CCM, along with a coalition of school and teacher focused groups are asking the state for help. 
HVAC equipment in public schools around the state have shown to be inadequate in response to both COVID and climate change. 
Rabinowitz describes times when she had to close schools because the temperature had simply gotten too hot – conditions she called horrific. 
In a survey, she said that just over 200 schools were not air conditioned, with a majority being elementary schools. 
In Connecticut, there are regulations against excessive temperatures and air quality in pet stores, but not in classrooms. 
For this reason, CAPSS along with the other organizations are calling for standards to be created and then achieved. 
“I’d like to have an audit of the schools,” she said, “and I’d like to have a long-term plan.” 
Not only are these conditions strenuous simply because they are hot, but they can lead to many health issues or exacerbate those that already exist. 
“We have a large number of kids with asthma, we have large numbers with allergies, and teachers as well.” 
Her suggestion is that we begin to deal with the problem bit by bit simply because it is too overwhelming to handle all in one year. And the state needs to offer bonding and help in other ways to allow this work to take place since towns will not be able to accomplish it on their own. 
“We have very good schools, we have wonderfully good municipalities, and we have great things going on,” Rabinowitz said, “I think we can only get better as long as we’re committed to working together.” 

To watch this episode of The Municipal Voice, click here.