LTE Support of Virtual beginning of schoolAug 28, 2020 01:01PM ● By GREA
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August 28, 2020
Dear Dr. Charleston and Glen Rock Board of Education,
We write again to ask you to delay the in-person start of school for the month of September.
Our argument has been made stronger by the news this week that elementary schools will not all have air conditioning through one of the two hottest months of the instructional year. With the addition of masks and other PPE, classrooms will be even more uncomfortable than usual. This is not a learning environment where students can learn routines, develop community, attend to instruction, or access the curriculum.
It was encouraging to know that you would allow for remote instruction “heat days” when temperatures are especially unbearable. However, it takes time, sometimes hours, for teachers to adapt and create materials for quality remote instruction. It is ideal that they are posted early or even the evening before a remote school day so parents may be prepared. If teachers are notified at 6:00 PM, it does not give adequate time to make needed adjustments in instructional materials. Elementary staff will need as much time as can be allowed. This is another reason that we believe that a consistent routine through remote instruction is preferable to a choppy, disjointed beginning. Consistency and routines are always best for kids, particularly our youngest learners in elementary school.
Remaining closed for the month of September would allow work to be finished in schools without placing students and staff in contact with construction workers who increase everyone’s risk of COVID-19 exposure. It also allows families who may have traveled to areas with community transmission of COVID-19 to return from vacation and stay home. In the coming weeks, our governor will have additional information about the transmission rate and the potential of a second wave of cases, and we will be able to make smarter, more informed decisions to help keep students and staff safe.
At this point, after a summer of teachers being unable to have their concerns met or voices heard, many no longer feel a sense of goodwill towards our district. In good faith, many teachers came in to prepare their classrooms for construction and label supplies for distribution to students, despite the stay at home order which was still in effect. Now elementary staff members are faced with incomplete work and classrooms that are in shambles and filled with boxes. Books and supplies which were dropped off from students’ homes have been piled up. This is no way to welcome staff or students for a new year of learning and there is no time before opening to set up for safe, socially distanced instruction.
While navigating reopening is extremely difficult and many factors are beyond your control, there are decisions you have made that have left your staff feeling disrespected. Sadly, in Glen Rock, this situation has been divisive at times because of the top-down approach to decision making. This reopening plan and your implementation strategies have fractured your relationship with your staff and compounded anxiety. This situation is not the same feeling and atmosphere currently in other districts. Administrative groups in other communities have been transparent and made sure that staff feels heard, valued, respected, and most importantly, safe.
At this time, it is critical for you to take the concerns of your teachers and staff seriously. Teachers, being older, are at higher risk of complications and serious illness than the students we serve. While parents, who were surveyed and then given the choice of remote or in-person instruction for their children, maybe comfortable taking the calculated risk of returning to school, teachers have no choice and no voice in the safety decisions which determine their working environment. Since March, many teachers have only been indoors with members of their households. When we return to school, elementary classroom teachers will be put in contact with their entire class daily, while each student will see only half that number of other children. Middle and high school teachers will be exposed to that number of students compounded exponentially. As teachers, we always advocate for our students and now we must advocate for own health and that of our families.
We ask that you take a step towards working constructively with your staff and begin this year with remote learning for September. We will all be better prepared for the challenges that remain with more time to finish construction and safely prepare and adapt our learning environments for everyone.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Jim Fink, President
Mr. Mike Rinderknecht GREA Executive Board GREA Membership
Audrey Mutch, Vice-President-Elementary
Erin Wessely, Recording Secretary
Lisa Tomaselli, Corresponding Secretary
Kathleen Walter, Vice-President-HS
Carlo Santaniello Vice-President-MS
Sue Stevens, Treasurer