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Elicker: New Haven schools to remain open, despite rumors

Wilbur Cross High School
Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public
Wilbur Cross High School on Monday, December 6, 2021 in New Haven.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said the city is doing all it can to ensure that schools will remain open through a class-by-class quarantine strategy. Still, he warned parents to prepare for remote learning at a moment's notice.

The guidance comes as students are set to return from holiday break next week, soon after Connecticut charted record COVID-19 positivity rates.

However, a link to an undated press release on the city’s official website caused confusion on the internet this week, because it stated schools would close indefinitely. The language echoed the city’s response to the pandemic in March 2020, and included links to resources dated during that time period. The confusion prompted Elicker to tweet that reports of schools switching to fully remote learning were false.

The city posted a message on its website, in place of the undated press release, that read: “There is a hoax message on social media that is recycling a message from last year about schools closing indefinitely. This message is not true. It is unfortunate that someone put this out there.” The new message was dated December 29, 2021.

Elicker told reporters Tuesday afternoon, before the old press release was shared on Twitter, that New Haven officials are doing all they can to make sure schools stay open.

“There are a number of reasons for that, the social emotional support,” Elicker said of the need for kids to interact in-person, “it's also a huge huge pressure on families and caregivers if we close schools.”

However, Elicker said individual classes may have to quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19, and that means anybody could be sent home for remote learning.

“We anticipate that it’s going to be a tough several weeks,” he said. “We anticipate there will be a significant number of cases. We will work case by case, classroom by classroom…. But we do not intend to close schools and we will work very hard to do that.”

The state’s help distributing home test kits and N95 masks to schools is part of the strategy to curb outbreaks, according to the mayor. The scheduled Thursday distribution of those kits faced delays on Wednesday, as Governor Ned Lamont announced supply chain issues in California left a large order of test kits grounded on a plane.

City Health Director Dr. Maritza Bond said wearing masks and testing will be key, as the highly contagious omicron variant is detected.

“We are officially in a community-wide spread and we can assume one in four people are positive,” Bond said, “We are asking individuals to remain home if you’re sick, get tested if you have access to testing.”

Cassandra Basler is a radio reporter and editor at Connecticut Public. She has covered juvenile justice, the opioid crisis, immigration, social justice and inequity. You can find her reporting in New Haven and Fairfield counties. She previously worked at WSHU Public Radio and her work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Here & Now.