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Public School Reopening Proposals

In the same way that the state is taking a deliberate and careful approach to reopening the economy, the state must take an equally deliberate and careful approach to reopening our public schools. We are advocating for phased reopening that will consist of four separate phases.
 
Having spent approximately 25 percent of the 2019-2020 school year in crisis mode and learning remotely, all of our students — regardless of socioeconomic status or race — will be coming back with social, emotional and academic needs that we don’t yet fully understand. The nearly 390,000 students whose families are at 185 percent of the federal poverty level under the Student Opportunity Act will have even more acute trauma than they carried before the pandemic. The intersection of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement compels us to examine and dismantle structures of racism and classism in society and in the institution of public education. Our schools cannot go back to the conditions under which they operated before COVID-19 or we will fail our students, families, educators and communities at the time of their greatest need. This moment provides us with an exciting opportunity to transform public education to adapt to our new reality.
 

 

AFT Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security.

“For many of our students, school is the one place where they can count on a full meal every day. With schools closed, AFT Massachusetts members across the state are working hard to make sure that our students, their families, and the whole community have the food they need,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I’m incredibly proud of the work AFT Massachusetts members are doing to support all our students during this challenging time.”

Union Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic in Lowell

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security. Educators across the Commonwealth are working hard to ensure that students and their families have food during this crisis.

In Lowell, educators have focused on supporting the Merrimack Valley Food Bank (MVFB), which distributes food to 64,000 people each month through food pantries, shelters, schools, and senior centers.

United Teachers of Lowell President Paul Georges reiterated to all, “Many of our citizens have relied on food banks and the generosity and consideration of others in getting through this extremely difficult time. The neighbors at this event and all the Union volunteers are addressing a real need in our community to help alleviate some of the anxiety people deal with on a daily basis. I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of our members.”

AFT Members Supporting Mobile Food Markets in Lawrence

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security. Educators across the Commonwealth are working hard to ensure that students and their families have food during this crisis.
 
“When LTU gave me the opportunity to volunteer at the Mobile Market I didn’t hesitate. Everyone is struggling right now but I can’t imagine how much worse it would be to try and manage my children if they were scared and hungry,” said Kimberly Senko, a 4th & 5th grade Special Education Teacher at the John K. Tarbox Elementary School. “I am a teacher but I worry about more than my students’ ability to read and write. My job requires me to partner with families to ensure students are safe, healthy, and they have the social emotional support they need to manage their emotions. Volunteering at the Mobile Market was one way to show families that Lawrence teachers are invested in the community and ready to support their children.”

New DESE remote learning guidance released: Highlights and initial analysis

The big takeaway from the April 24 guidance is that DESE is now asking districts to go beyond reinforcing previously taught content to also cover new content that is focused “on those standards that are the most critical prerequisites for student success in the next grade." DESE has compiled guides to these prerequisite content standards for math, English language arts, science, and history/social studies - elementary guide and secondary guide.

The focus on teaching DESE-selected prerequisite standards—or what some are calling “essential” or “power” standards—in a remote learning environment is a shift in DESE policy, and it has significant implications. As remote learning continues, perhaps even into parts of next year, this was an inevitable development. Many districts are already teaching new content, and expectations are mounting to advance the curriculum so that students don’t fall further behind in their academic learning.

This Year’s MCAS Tests Cancelled After Parents, Students, and Educators Speak Out

“The educators of AFT Massachusetts appreciate the House and Senate’s passage of legislation to waive this year’s MCAS requirement,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We are glad Governor Baker signed the bill immediately so that students and educators can focus on staying healthy and learning during this crisis, rather than worrying about test prep.”
 
“Let teachers and students focus on staying healthy and problem-solving to sustain our education system and not have to worry about test prep,” read the petition circulated by Citizens for Public Schools and signed by more than 4,000 individuals. “Test-related funding that can be re-allocated should be spent on more urgent relief for schools and vulnerable students at this critical time.”

AFT Massachusetts Statement on DESE Remote Learning Guidelines

Students, educators, and parents are working hard every day to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and AFT Massachusetts is focused on ensuring the safety of students, school staff, and our communities, while making sure that equity is prioritized in every decision. Amid the life-altering changes we’ve dealt with over the past weeks, we are grateful that DESE collaborated closely with AFT Massachusetts, our colleagues in the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and other education stakeholders to develop new guidelines for remote learning during the COVID-19 school closures.

As educators, we are glad that DESE’s guidelines share our main principles: that safety and physical/mental health must be our top priorities, and that equity needs to be a top consideration in local decision-making. The students who were most vulnerable before this crisis, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English language learners – and especially students experiencing homelessness and food insecurity – are the most vulnerable during this time, and every decision at the local and state level needs to be made with them in mind.

AFT resources on the COVID-19

The AFT is focused on the health and safetly of our members, communities and students.
 
School and library closures related to the coronavirus pandemic have impacted hundreds of thousands of U.S. schools and libraries and affected millions of students. The AFT is working constantly to help our members and the people they serve navigate this virus, and buffer against the economic impacts. These are unique and challenging times, and information on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. 
 
Please visit https://www.aft.org/coronavirus to review the AFT's collection of resources.

 

AFT Massachusetts President Calls on Governor Baker to Close All Libraries

AFT members and leaders appreciate your decision to order all public and private schools to close this week, but libraries are just as vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Yesterday, the American Library Association recommended closing libraries nationwide, writing that “libraries are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities. Keeping libraries open at this time has the potential to harm communities more than help.” But in Massachusetts, as a result of inconsistent decision-making at the local level and a lack of state guidance, some municipal libraries remain open, while others, including the Boston Public Library system, are closed.
 
Over the coming weeks, our public libraries will play an important role in supporting the education of children whose schools are closed, but public health demands that all physical library locations close and that we promote the use of ebooks, audio books, and other online services instead of physical books, DVDs, and other media.
 
In this time of economic disruption, all library staff must be paid without being forced to use sick days or vacation days. Additionally, anyone whose job it is to clean libraries during their closure must have appropriate health protections, like respirators and gloves, as guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.