President Revere Teachers Association (RTA) Gina Garro said this week that the RTA believes the only safe start to school is in a fully remote model for all educators, staff and students.
“We fully acknowledge the difficult situation the community is in, and despite our strong desire to be in school with our students we know that it is not currently safe to do so,” said Garro. She added, “The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Revere recently caused Mayor Arrigo to call for a remote start to school this coming September. Remote learning means that all students and educators learn and teach from home until it is safe to return to the buildings.”
Garro said educators should not be mandated to teach from their classrooms, nor should the city’s most vulnerable students be back in their classrooms.
“Any gathering of educators or students puts the entire community at risk,” said Garro. “We will know that it is safe to phase in a return to school buildings when community health and safety benchmarks are met and the infrastructure of all school buildings are proven to be up to standard.”
Garro said the RTA stands together with members of the community, students and their families to demand a safe learning experience for all.
Last week the Parent Teacher Safe Reopening Committee placed black balloons at four schools across the city–Revere High School, Sergeant James J. Hill Elementary School, Rumney Marsh Academy and Beachmont Veterans Memorial School.
“These balloons represent the pain and loss our community has suffered as a result of COVID-19 as well as the potential additional suffering and death that could result from sending educators and students back into the school buildings before it is safe,” said Garro. “We must not allow for a single preventable case of illness or death to result from being back in the buildings too soon. One death is too many. We must return to the buildings only when it is safe.”
This week the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) commented on school reopening plans here and across the state.
Revere Public School Superintendent Dr. Dianne Kelly serves on MASS’s Executive Committee as their Urban Schools representative.
In an Op-Ed penned by MASS members the group said some communities, like Revere, are choosing not to reopen school buildings, opting instead for full distance learning for all students. Other communities are moving forward with a “hybrid” model, in which some groups of students alternate between in-person learning and distance learning, in order to ensure physical distancing in schools.
“Neither of these approaches is being met with universal acclaim,” wrote MASS. “Superintendents and School Committees find themselves caught between the impassioned viewpoints of two opposing camps. They are hearing from parents who advocate for at least some return to in-person schooling, in part because of fears about the long-term effects of students being out of school, without the support and interactions they need to thrive. They’re also hearing from constituents, including many teachers’ union leaders, who insist that school buildings should remain closed altogether to protect students and staff and to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Like Revere, many of the 275 members of MASS were eager and hopeful to have their School Committee approve a hybrid model.
However, the Revere School Committee who voted for a ‘remote’ learning model to start off the school year last week despite an outline of precautions that would have been implemented in a ‘hybrid’ learning model.
“Despite these precautions, some communities ultimately will decide, as some already have, that even a partial reopening is not worth the risk, and begin the year with all students learning from home,” said MASS. “In those communities, Superintendents will work with teachers’ unions to design and implement distance learning plans that reflect lessons learned last spring about what worked well and what needs improvement.”
MASS said districts will have to find creative ways for students and families to “meet” their new teachers, even if not in person, to establish relationships at the start of the school year. Districts operating fully remote models also will have to devise strategies to serve students with the greatest needs, particularly students with disabilities, English learners, children living in poverty, and others who were not fully engaged in distance learning from March to June. Challenging questions remain about how schools can provide additional services remotely to address students’ social-emotional needs, especially their mental and physical health.
“There is no shortage of opinions about what is the “right” way to approach the new school year,” wrote MASS. “While superintendents have urged State officials to provide more clear direction for school opening, unless State officials change their position in the days ahead, these decisions are left solely in the hands of the superintendents and school committees. Therefore, each Superintendent has a weighty responsibility to cut through the noise, examine the facts, weigh the pros and cons, and recommend a plan that best protects and educates the students in their community. Ultimately, each proposal must be approved by the School Committee, but even their decision is not final unless the terms are negotiated with the local teachers’ union.”
MASS said no matter how the school year starts in Revere the new school year can begin successfully only if everyone involved is committed to working together for the benefit of students.
“In the remaining weeks before students resume learning, we have a critical opportunity for parents, educators, union leaders, and community partners – regardless of the model they each wanted to see adopted – to move forward with a shared sense of purpose,” wrote MASS. “We are living in imperfect times, to say the least, so while no plan can achieve a “perfect” result, let’s all strive to be creative, open-minded, resilient, and unequivocally determined to get our students back to learning.”