Full time in person option for Pelham Schools

This petition made change with 711 supporters!

Dear Pelham Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ:

We are a group of Pelham parents who have come together in order to advocate and advance any and all efforts to get our children safely back to school full-time and in-person.

First off, we thank you, the reopening committee, our teachers and everyone involved, for the tremendous work throughout these many months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also appreciate the time taken to solicit and implement feedback from the community through the ThoughtExchange surveys. We understand the complexity in operating during this time, and know the Board, School Administrators, and our Teachers have worked tirelessly to ensure that our children continue their education. 

By this statement, we are speaking with one voice: we need more children to have the option to attend school full-time and in-person this spring, and have all students full-time and in-person for the 2021-2022 academic year.

All levels of government, including public health officials, as well as leading medical associations, are urging educators to make every effort to have children in school. The effects of prolonged remote school have had a devastating impact on their ability to learn, and on their mental health. We read about the numerous suicides by children nationwide, including in Las Vegas where 18 students have taken their lives in the last nine months, and contemplate the impact the isolation and stress has had on our own children. In addition, the leader of the education practice at McKinsey and Company estimates that the average student could lose five to nine months of learning by June. Technology and internet access issues, family stresses related to illness, job loss, and the need for childcare, compound these effects. All of these negative consequences are experienced in greater magnitude by less economically advantaged families. There can be no doubt that these heartbreaking trends exist here in Pelham, and to continue this way for much longer is untenable. Finally, we recognize that the hybrid learning model is a very difficult one for our dedicated teachers to successfully educate within.  

We understand that shortage of space in our schools is a central issue in keeping our schools from providing full-time in-person learning to our students. Nonetheless, many surrounding districts are pushing to get at least a larger proportion of their student body more time in school.

Pelham Schools must make a resolute commitment of providing a full-time in-person option for students this spring and to bringing all students back by September.

We must make firm plans now under the worst-case scenario: the COVID-19 pandemic is still here, the slow rollout of vaccinations for teachers and the general population continues, and that NYS guidelines do not evolve quickly enough to apply the latest evidence. We need to hope for things to change for our children and to also take decisive actions now. 

We are reaching out to our local elected officials, including State Senator Biaggi, about ways to achieve our goal of being fully in-person. We will demand clarifications and updated guidance from NYS and Westchester County based on the latest data, as well as demand for direct support to vaccinate our teachers and implement a testing program if necessary. We would like the school district to support these efforts with us to the fullest extent possible.

We recommend that a Task Force be created to brainstorm with you ways in which full-time, in-school can be implemented in a safe, effective way. There is an incredible wealth of resources to be found in our community members: from doctors and mental health professionals, infectious disease and public health experts; to lawyers and educators in both secondary and higher education and more. We would like to revisit am/pm learning options, better understand the current daily hybrid attendance rate to see, if in practice, there is room for more children to come back for full-time in-person instruction now. We also need to revisit the idea of obtaining more space and more support for our teaching staff. Innovative and creative ideas are necessary to meet this challenge. We understand that approvals may be required by the NYSED, which is why starting this effort now, is necessary.  

We are offering our assistance in this undertaking. We want our children to remember their community rallying strongly around their continued success and well being during this time.

Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.   

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