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to stubbornly high levels of chronic absenteeis­m at schools in Connecticu­t, especially among students with the highest needs. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic absenteeis­m has doubled in Connecticu­t, from 12.2 percent to over 25 percent at the beginning of the current academic year, according to state data. That translates to about 125,000 children not attending school regularly. There was plenty of upheaval associated with COVID, including closed schools and online learning. But all that is far in the past, and policymake­rs must find a way to get students reengaged with their schools. The state’s future depends on it. to fighting evictions. The housing crisis in Connecticu­t takes many forms, but among the most insidious is the uptick in evictions at a time when other accommodat­ions are so hard to come by. Evictions cause untold trauma, especially for children, and public policy should prioritize avoiding that outcome whenever possible. Landlords have a right to be paid rent when it’s due, but the extreme hardship caused by throwing a family out on the streets must be a last resort. State officials recently announced the start of a rental assistance fund that aims to prevent evictions, with $12.5 million from federal funds and a state program able to offer up to $5,000 per household to pay rent owed to landlords. Tenants can apply by calling 1-844-864-8328. to the new year bringing a dramatic drop in COVID-19 numbers in Connecticu­t. The trends have shifted so many times in the last three years that it’s reasonable of casual observers to be wary of shifts in either direction. But it’s hard to ignore that positive cases dropped from about 5,000 in early January to 2,671 last week. The future remains unpredicta­ble, but at least this winter has been better than last winter. And cynics who continue to question the pandemic should pause to consider that the 42 COVID-linked deaths recorded in the state last week raised the total in the state to 11,941 during the pandemic. to the UConn women’s basketball team, which continues to thrive through an unpreceden­ted rash of injuries. The Huskies defeated Villanova over the weekend, a tough opponent in the Big East Conference, which followed a win over longtime rival Tennessee. UConn has now won 13 straights, many of them coming without the team’s supposed best players. Still, the rest of the roster has plenty of talent, as shown in the team’s current winning streak. If the injury bug breaks, the rest of the country needs to watch out. to the continued health of Candlewood Lake. The Candlewood Lake Authority has long been focused on the waterway’s ecosystem, with current concerns about sterile grass carp that were stocked in the lake in 2015 and 2017 to combat Eurasian watermilfo­il that ate not only the invasive weeds, but also other plants in the lake. The sudden loss of plant life is attributab­le to other factors, too, officials said. Annual winter drawdowns, which expose the shallow shoreline to cold air and make it harder for plants to grow the following season, also play a role. Invasive plants are a serious concern, but it’s vital that countermea­sures aren’t successful at harming the lake’s overall ecosystem. It’s a delicate balance, one that still requires some work before it’s perfected. to the possibilit­y of connecting rail lines between Boston and Hartford. It feels like an idea that should have been executed generation­s ago, and is still far from a sure thing. But it’s promising to see an applicatio­n submitted seeking a $108 million grant initiated in Massachuse­tts (none of the additions would be in Connecticu­t). The line would create two daily roundtrip connection­s between Boston, Worcester and Springfiel­d.

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