Superintendent Kelly Responds to RTA’s Concerns of Air Quality in School Buildings

This week the Revere Teachers Association (RTA) sent a letter to Revere Public School Superintendent Dr. Dianne Kelly and Mayor Brian Arrigo highlighting concerns from the district’s own ventilation report completed by AMERESCO.

According to the RTA the report demonstrates that multiple rooms in five schools across three buildings, including its most populous, Revere High School, should have “zero occupants” based on the airflow testing.

“Although remediation is being done, it is not anywhere near complete and there has been no verification of the success of the remediation,” said the RTA members in a letter. “And yet teachers, and eventually students when the District phases into a hybrid model, will be entering them (the schools).”

Due to the District’s requirement that all staff work in the school buildings three days a week,  even during periods of remote instruction, the RTA told Mayor Arrigo and Dr. Kelly please teachers are heading back to schools “under duress”.

“We will continue to demand that ongoing reassurances be made and the following marks be met,” they wrote.

The RTA wants AMARESCO to retest all buildings, with particular attention to the five schools that received poor readings–Beachmont, Seacoast, Garfield Elementary, Garfield Middle, and Revere High School to verify that remediation has been successful. The RTA wants multiple rooms on multiple floors to be tested, including interior classrooms with no windows, and faculty common spaces and they want all test done with closed windows.

“The District (should) commit to purchasing HEPA filter portable air cleaners for all rooms identified with low airflow,” said the RTA. “This is especially important in rooms that do not have  windows or in winter months when windows cannot stay open.”

“Because these  guidelines have not been met, teachers must be given the option to work from home until these  issues are firmly resolved,” said the letter. “There is nothing RPS teachers want more than to be in the presence of our students. We miss them dearly. But in order for that day to come, we must do everything in our power to move  Revere out of the Red Zone.”

In response Dr. Kelly said in a statement to the Revere Journal that over the past months the district and educators have been preparing to return to work to best serve our students. One of the preparations included negotiations with the RTA regarding certain return to work aspects. “After many hours of collaborative negotiations, the parties arrived at agreement and this agreement was ratified by the RTA membership on August 28th, by an overwhelming percentage, and approved unanimously by the School Committee on the same day,” said Kelly. “Through negotiations the parties agreed to have educators in school buildings 2-3 days per week while Revere students were learning from their homes. The District believes, consistent with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, that educators working out of their classrooms is in the best interests of students.”

Kelly added that through negotiations the parties also agreed how the district would continue to address certain HVAC concerns in three of Revere’s eight buildings. 

“It is important to point out, as has been made clear to the RTA, that the HVAC systems in the Beachmont, Garfield, and High School are not malfunctioning,” said Kelly. “They all work as designed. As has been indicated by HVAC professionals and medical professionals, opening windows is the most effective remedy for increasing the amount of outside air coming into a space. Our facilities team has worked fervently to ensure windows are operating in every classroom in these buildings.”

Since Revere Public Schools shut down in March due to COVID-19, it has been over 180 days  since teachers and students have been in the classroom. As a result, students have undergone  immense trauma—contracting the virus themselves, witnessing family members be forced to  quarantine within the same household, or enduring the unfathomable grief of sudden loss. RPS  students embody resilience in every form, and as their teachers, we are consistently amazed by  their grit, perseverance, and hope.

In early August, Mayor Brian Arrigo cancelled all city-sponsored events and determined all  students would begin the year with remote learning because of Revere’s recent uptick in  COVID-19 cases. The chair of Revere’s Board of Health, Dr. Nathalee Kong, claimed social  gatherings to be the biggest cause of such an increased rate.

But not much has changed in the month that’s passed. Governor Charlie Baker recently issued a press conference and labeled Revere as one of the five communities with still “dangerously high”  rates of transmission. Mayor Brian Arrigo joined Gov. Baker and said, “Half of our [Revere’s]  population is comprised of immigrants and communities of color. We know that this virus  impacts Black and Brown communities disproportionately and we are seeing those impacts in the  city of Revere…We have to dig in and do more.”

We have to dig in and do more. RPS teachers agree.

But it’s difficult to dig in and do more when the RPS teachers are ready to dig in and do more for the safety of all. Are you?

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