For nearly an hour last week the Revere Public School Committee debated a motion put forth by some members calling for a hybrid learning start date of March 1 for special education students who are juniors and seniors.
The motion, put forth by School Committee members Michael Ferrante, Susan Gravellese, Frederick A. Sannella, Stacey Rizzo, touched off a spirited back and forth over the language of the motion and whether a date should be included.
Members like Revere Public School Superintendent Dr. Dianne Kelly, Carol Ty, Anthony D’Ambrosio and Mayor Brian Arrigo said putting a potential start date out to the public may cause more anger and confusion if the target date doesn’t pan out due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maybe we don’t put in a starting date in March,” said Ty. “I know that we all agree that we need to get kids back in school. It’s not the lack of wanting–we have done the right thing all along. It’s the people who refuse to wear masks oir social distance. I’m so glad that our teachers will take precedence in getting the vaccine but until we can be sure I don’t think we can put any kind of date on it.”
Ty’s comments were backed by D’Ambrosio who also did not support the motion.
“I agree with Miss Ty,” said D’Ambrosio. “I think that everybody here agrees that we need to be trying as hard as we can to get all students back as quickly as possible. It needs to be safe to do that. Obviously we want everybody to be back as soon as possible and as soon as it’s safe to do so. I understand the argument about wanting an optimistic goal here but we’re voting on the most optimistic of optimistic goals. If we put out a date that isn’t realistic–and many of us know that March 1 isn’t realistic based on the president’s vaccination regiment proposals and the city’s vaccination regime proposal–it’s tantamount to just spreading misinformation at this point.”
Mayor Arrigo caution is that any date that the School Committee throws out there goes against the need to be flexible and fluid as the world continues to change due to COVID.
“Using any kind of date–and I think we’ve learned this with graduation and pretty much everything that we’ve dealt with during the pandemic– can be a real challenge. I wouldn’t want us to be tied to one date. I would kind of lean on the side of caution in terms of any language (that includes dates). Putting a date out there can present challenges and then changing that date could present even more challenges as well.”
Dr. Kelly added that while she understands that the members who put forth the motion are eager to get kids back to some form of in-person learning it has to be done with caution.
“We have had a hybrid learning model designed and developed since August but what has kept us from going back to school is not a lack of planning or lack of foresight or failure to set a date,” said Kelly, “It has been the guidance of the Revere Board of Health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We’ve listened to the medical experts and that’s the reason why (we are not back in school). Communities near us that have gone to a hybrid model made their decision based on that advice as well. In August we thought we’d be in at the end of October. In October we thought maybe November. By Thanksgiving we hoped for Christmas and at Christmas we hoped it would be after the New Year. But instead of the numbers coming down (in Revere) the numbers have gone up and they continue to go up. And when I say on numbers I mean the positivity rate in the community, I mean the number of infections, I mean the number of citizens who are dying from this pandemic. I’ve said right along that we would come back when it’s safe for us to do so.”
Rizzo defended the motion saying it was meant to simply reinforce a major goal for the schools—the goal of getting kids back in the classroom.
In the end a motion to strike the date from the original motion failed 4 to 3 but some of the other language in the motion was rearranged to reflect the School Committee’s active work to prepare for a return to school.