In a powerful statement that reverberated in the educational community into the weekend and on to this week, City Council President Patrick Keefe expressed frustration with students still being unable to attend classes in person at Revere schools.
Keefe’s remarks, made at a joint meeting of the Revere City Council and Revere School Committee Friday, were apparently not well received by some Revere teachers, two of whom expressed their discontent during the meeting broadcast live on Revere TV.
During the meeting two parents did seem to concur with Keefe that the overall remote learning experience did not meet the exceptionally high standards for which the highly acclaimed Revere school system is known. The parents cited a lack of information and updates being presented to parents by school administrators during the remote-learning process. Mayor Brian Arrigo, Supt. of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly, Public Health Director Lauren Buck and Mayor Arrigo’s Chief of Staff Kim Hanton participated in the meeting.
Keefe said the issues was personal to him in that he [and his wife, Jennifer] have two children enrolled in the Revere schools. He prefaced his remarks by stating that “I know for 100 per cent certainty that everyone on the School Committee, especially the superintendent [Dr. Dianne Kelly], and all of the faculty and the teachers have done an unbelievable job thus far. They have worked unbelievably hard.”
But then Keefe lowered the boom.
“I believe education is essential to our children, but as a parent I’m frustrated where we currently stand for eight months and I feel helpless, a person watching my children deteriorate” said Keefe. “Just imagine how the other 8,000 families in Revere feel.
“This is why I believe it’s imperative that we make some corrective action in how we are attempting to get children back into our schools,” he continued.
Keefe called the curriculum and school system “the city’s gold standard” for years, especially so under the direction of Supt. Kelley.
“On March 12, that all went away. It changed when we closed the doors to everyone. And I agree that at the time it was the right decision to step back and reflect and plan a path forward.
“But fast forward eight-plus months and to continue to even be unable to consider the concept of going back in to these former safeh avens, it’s not acceptable and it goes against everything these schools have stood for,” said Keefe.
Keefe inferred that the blame rested on the teachers when he said, “I don’t create a suggestion that there is one group to cause for this great resistance for getting back into at least partial in-person learning, although it’s quite clear by many closely involved that this is the answer.”
Mayor Brian Arrigo, who is the ex-officio chair of the School Committee, was the first to respond to Keefe’s “perspective and frustration.”
“The level of anxiety and the challenges that come along with remote learning certainly come through the screen and I just appreciate the fact that you would take the time to express those feelings as a parent, first. Your perspective is one that I value and I certainly understand the frustration that you have,” said Arrigo.
The mayor said the frustration Keefe was experiencing was also being experienced by the School Committee and the superintendent of schools.
Kelly said, “I feel also, Patrick, for what you’re saying and I will say that I have had a number of parents reach out who feel the same way that you do, and a number of teachers who have reached out and are really desperate to get back to the classroom and have some in-person instruction with their students.
“I think the most responsible thing that we can do and the School Committee has been in agreement with is follow the guidelines from our medical professionals and from the Department of Education, the CDC, the Department of Public Health. Although I learned a lot more about this infection, about vaccines, about ventilations systems – I am not an expert in any of them and so we all need to rely on the people who are.”
Kelly said Revere has consistently been among the communities with the highest COVID-19 positivity rates in Massachusetts.
The superintendent said the school system conducted a recent survey in which 3,100 families responded – which is a fantastic return. Kelly indicated that 85 percent of the parents indicated that they were very pleased with their children’s remote-learning experience during the pandemic.