Public School Reopening Proposals

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On July 13th, AFT Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Boston Teachers Union released a joint set of reopening proposals for the reopening of our public schools. 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 a phased reopening that will consist of four separate phases.

  1. The first phase is for teachers, Education Support Professionals, substitutes and all other relevant school personnel to have uninterrupted time together to prepare for the return of students and resumption of school in whatever model the local association and district deem best through negotiations.
  2. The second phase is for educators to meet with students and families either in person or remotely, as the public health context allows. This time should be used for social emotional wellness checks, basic needs assessments, an evaluation of technology needs and reconnecting with students, families and school communities.
  3. The third phase is the resumption of instruction/learning, whether in person, remote or hybrid, and it focuses on the first six weeks of learning.
  4. Finally, the fourth phase will be based on an assessment of where things stand, both in terms of public health data and educational progress under the initial reopening plan.
Our proposals are divided into seven sections: Phased Reopening, Health & Safety, Modifications/Waivers on State Regulations, Staff Assignments/Workload, Full Funding and Full Staffing, Reimagine Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment: No MCAS and Computers and Internet Access for All.
 
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.

Educators will need to develop new skills, strategies, teaching methodologies and curricula that match the conditions we will be returning to under any of the three models (remote, in-person or hybrid). Students and their families have ongoing needs that must be met — before and upon return to school. School buildings across the Commonwealth are not yet equipped to meet environmental health and safety standards. To be ready to return, we need time to prepare buildings and physical settings; plan and learn new skills; and welcome and acclimate our students and families. And we need full funding and staffing to address the myriad facets of teaching and learning during a global pandemic.

You can read the full set of proposals here.