WEST HAVEN — State Reps. Dorinda Borer and Rosa Rebimbas called Tuesday for the state Department of Education to survey parents about their experience with distance learning and solicit feedback on plans for reopening schools,

In a letter to Commissioners Miguel Cardona and Laura Stefon, Borer and co-signatory Rebimbas, co-chairwomen of the legislature’s Women’s Bipartisan Caucus, called for the Education Department to “develop a survey tool for parents of public school students Pre-K-12 that can be used via a mobile device” and require each district to solicit responses.

The lawmakers said the hope is to better understand the experiences parents and students have had with distance learning, including whether special education services were appropriately made available, and get a sense of what options for in-person or remote instruction they’d prefer to see enacted in the fall.

“Not only will this provide districts with valuable information, it will give Connecticut statewide data to inform our decision making,” Borer and Rebimbas wrote. “As educational equity remains a paramount concern, it will be important to have data regarding engagement, participation and barriers to education collected and disaggregated by region, age, grade, race/ethnicity, primary language, and disability status if at all possible.”

Borer and Rebimbas also called on the commissioners to find a role for paraprofessionals to play during distance learning, as they have “heard from parents and advocates of students with disabilities that many children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) were not able to work with their paraprofessionals” during the pandemic.

“We applaud the SDE and the Governor for issuing Executive Order, that provided school districts with guidance to continue paying staff who had been employed before schools moved to distance learning but, unfortunately, many did not,” Borer and Rebimbas wrote. “If there should be the need for continued distance learning in the fall, we would like school districts to utilize their paraprofessionals to improve the online learning experience for students with disabilities.”

The letter also requests that the Education Department issue guidance concerning providing special education students with instruction from age 21 to 22, as was recently required by a federal court ruling.

In a separate letter to the commissioners and state Attorney General William Tong, Borer and Rebimbas asked the state not to appeal the decision.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation, but we received the letter and very much appreciate the perspectives of the caucus,” said Elizabeth Benton, a spokeswoman for Tong.

A requests for comment was sent to the Education Department.

“As legislators representing constituents with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities, and as legislators who recognize both the individual value of self-sufficiency and the value of realized potential to the overall well-being of Connecticut, we would strongly object to the appeal of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut’s decision,” Borer and Rebimbas wrote.

“It is a just, legally sound ruling, and again, we respectfully urge you to reconsider this appeal so that these students can take comfort in knowing they will receive the education deserved.”

Connecticut Media Group