Saturday, August 1, 2020

Franklin Education Association (FEA) Statement on Re-Opening & more

                             July 31st, 2020
Franklin Education Association Statement on Education under COVID

Dear Dr. Ahern, School Committee Members, and Community Members,
As educators in the Franklin Public Schools, we miss our students and want nothing more than to be back in the classrooms. Fall is usually a time of excitement, eagerness, and hope. This fall, however, is hardly typical. We care deeply about the safety and well-being of our students, as well as the quality of the education we provide. Our obligation, professionally, morally, and ethically, is to keep students, educators, families, and our communities, out of harm's way.
Members of the Franklin Education Association have shown time and again that we hold the interests of our students and their families, their continued success,  and the success of this school system, as our first priority. We feel this was exhibited this past spring in the hours spent preparing crisis learning, researching all kinds of resources and online platforms for ourselves, our students,  and our families, collaborating with teams, administration,  and colleagues, and connecting with students and families as much as possible. This "students first" philosophy compels our educators to go above and beyond in our efforts to elevate the opportunities for our students. We commit to these goals knowing that achieving them often means working long into the evening, sacrificing time with family, and ignoring self care and personal health needs. We do this out of our dedication  to teaching, and our commitment to our students. To ask us to put our lives, and those of our family members, on the line for the sake of reopening, is to ask too much. The district must demonstrate that health and safety conditions and public health benchmarks are met before buildings reopen to anyone. The FEA cannot support any plan that puts any members, any students, or the community, at such serious risk. Medical scientists have not fully reassured the public of the utmost safety to return to school buildings while the deadly disease of COVID-19 persists. More studies come out each day about complications and risks to younger students, middle school students, and impacts of trauma that could happen if we return too soon.
In light of the current rise in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the country—directly caused by premature reopening of communities—our members feel it is unsafe for students, teachers, and staff, to return to buildings.  Specifically, the following are our some of our many concerns:
  • Untenable and unsustainable scenarios for compliance with PPE/distancing guidelines puts the physical and mental health of students, staff, and administrators at risk.  (6 feet of distancing must be the minimum standard in all teaching and learning environments.  Face coverings must be worn by all students, staff, and visitors, with the exception only of documented medical conditions, where this practice is contraindicated)
  • Teachers cannot be tasked with policing students' bodies and behaviors as opposed to being educators who seek to connect with students and cultivate a love of learning. 
  • Staff who are vulnerable, or whose families are vulnerable to COVID-19
  • Environmental concerns loom large such as - 
School buildings with poor ventilation, rooms without windows, inability to use fans, heat indices well over 90 in many rooms, outdated HVAC, cleaning schedules and protocols, lack of timeline and training for all protocols and procedures needed for reopening.
We  understand that the District has an obligation to submit a plan to DESE, to meet the varied needs of students. We ask you to have that conversation, and to formulate that plan,  WITH us, not in spite of us.  The current choice before us is not education or safety. It is education with safety, with all of us working together in support of one another to help suppress, and defeat, this virus.
If we were to return to any type of in-person schooling, including a hybrid model, at this time, our students, educators, staff, and faculty, would have a school experience that would tell us that we are not valued, not worth being heard, not worth ensuring safety, not important in the lives of our community.   At this time, the Franklin Education Association calls upon the Franklin Public Schools to begin the year remotely until such time that a phased-in return allows for proper health and safety measures to be brought into place and monitored. 
Respectfully submitted,
Donna Grady, President
Franklin Education Association

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 654
Franklin, MA 02038

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