Lamont to spend COVID funds on summer education programs

Connecticut plans to allocate millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward education programs designed to help make up for learning lost by the state’s schoolchildren during the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that $10.7 million of Connecticut’s federal pandemic recovery funding will pay for an initiative he’s calling the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program or LEAP, which will be a partnership between the state Department of Education and six regional state Education Service Centers.

Among other things, the program will send people directly into homes to work with families who have been struggling with absenteeism and remote learning in 15 particularly hard-hit school districts.

The money also will help fund summer camps and other educational experiences, which Lamont said the state will encourage students to attend before school resumes in the fall as a way to make up for lost time in the classroom.

“I want to make sure that we can provide that to kids at virtually no charge and no cost to every kid that wants to go,” Lamont said during an education roundtable in Meriden. “I want to put a youth corps together so that these kids have a friend, a mentor; that they get free access to museums and aquariums and libraries — all different ways that our kids can hit the ground running in September.”

Officials said the LEAP program will have three goals: to bridge students back to their school communities for the final months of the school year; to support enrollment in those summer programs and to facilitate a seamless transition back into the classroom for the 2021-22 school year.

State education officials said they used data collected through the state’s new attendance tracking system to identify the districts with the greatest need and allocate the LEAP funds to those areas.

The state last fall used relief dollars to distribute 141,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections for students in need.

U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal told the roundtable that millions more in education money will be coming to the state in the next few months as part of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan and he said local school districts will be able to decide how to spend those funds.

Lamont said the state will receive $1.1 billion in education money from that plan over the next three years.

“We know that the pandemic has taken an egregious toll, potentially a tragic loss for our students and we have an obligation to do everything we can to overcome it,” Blumenthal said.

In other coronavirus related news.

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VACCINE MILESTONE

Lamont announced Monday that 52% of Connecticut residents age 16 or older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The percentages are highest for older residents, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine for a much longer period of time.

The governor’s office said 83% of those 65 or older have received at least their first shot. That number is 71% for those 55 to 64 years old; 54% for those between 45 and 54 and 30% of those between 16 and 44 years old.

“I’d like to think those numbers continue to go up as we move toward herd immunity,” Lamont said.

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J & J SHORTAGE

Connecticut is expecting just 21,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week as a result of continuing issues at a manufacturing plant in Maryland, the governor’s office said.

Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said most of those doses will be reserved for the state’s mobile vaccination vans, which travel to underserved communities across the state.

He said Connecticut also is pivoting from its plan to use the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines to inoculate students at Connecticut colleges and universities before they head home for the summer. Those clinics will instead use the two-dose vaccines and will coordinate second doses with health officials in a student’s home state, should that become necessary, he said.

Geballe said Connecticut expects to received 98,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 60,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.

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