Community Response to MCCSC's Path to Re-Entry and Recovery: A CALL FOR EQUITY
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Dear MCCSC School Board Members:
In response to the current MCCSC re-entry plan, we recognize the weight of your responsibility and thank you for the time and effort you have put into making these difficult decisions that will affect the health, safety, and prosperity of our community. In light of this, we would like to outline our concerns as parents and community members. It is our hope that this letter will serve as a guide for communication, action, and on-going assessment regarding school operations in Monroe County. Our greatest concern is regarding equity. We want to ensure that decisions being made are considering all children and staff, not just those who have the economic privilege to choose a home-based learning program or work online. Our priority is that each community member's health be protected and that each person has the ability to make the safest decision for themselves and their family.
The concerns addressed herein center around three components (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/safely-back-to-school-after-coronavirus-closures#):
- Risks to public health
- Economic activity
- Student learning and thriving
Risks to Public Health
While much is still unknown about the transmission of COVID-19, there exists agreed upon guidelines to limit its spread. Among these are social distancing, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and hygiene.
Recognizing that practical guidelines for social distancing in elementary schools have been established by the CDC (http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2020/images/04/30/reopening.guidelines.pdf we expect that each of the schools in MCCSC will follow the basic expectations for Phases 1-3 of reopening.
Recommendation 1: Use of masks/shields (PPE) for students and staff should be mandatory (except in the case of approved medical exemptions) while indoors, and individual teachers should not bear the burden of decision making in this area. We understand that wearing a mask all day is not ideal and that outdoor mask breaks should be incorporated multiple times throughout the day at all schools.
Recommendation 2: Ongoing COVID-19 testing for students, teachers, and staff or assisting students, teachers, staff and families with obtaining COVID-19 testing.
Recommendation 3: Each school should have an equal ability to maintain social distance. To avoid overcrowding, students should be provided transportation to low-density schools to optimize social distancing.
The current MCCSC plan states that social distancing will be utilized “when possible”. We expect a guarantee that social distancing will be maintained and enforced at all times. This should include a clearly communicated (via school website) maximum occupancy for each classroom and school building that correlates with social distancing guidelines. We expect that some schools will have a high number of in-person learners while others will have more room due to on-line learners. We know that the plan addresses the use of non-classroom space to accommodate social distancing, and it must also be considered that all available space in nearby school buildings be utilized in order for in-person classes to be properly socially distanced.
Importance to Economic Activity
This is a complex issue that will disproportionately affect the decision-making of the more vulnerable families (lower socio-economic households) in our community. In addition, the teachers, administrative staff, and custodial workers at the school must be given choices in the best interest of their health and the health of their families.
Recommendation 4: Provide additional paid sick leave to all part- and full-time MCCSC faculty and staff if they become infected by COVID-19.
Recommendation 5: Online/remote options should be available for those employees who choose. Online academy teaching positions should be filled by current MCCSC teachers who cannot attend schools, prioritizing those with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. No MCCSC employee should have to choose between quitting or going back to work in the schools, essentially choosing between their economic well being or their health.
Student Learning and Thriving
Again, the students who are already vulnerable to low educational outcomes should be especially protected and highlighted at this time.
Recommendation 6: Additional Social Workers should be hired to meet the demands of increased need. Community response teams should be assembled to provide assistance for students whose parents get sick and need to isolate, or students who need supplies to conduct online classes. These teams can provide homework assistance, excused absences, safety nets for food/housing support.
In closing, we know you are all working tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children of Monroe County. We expect your full implementation of the recommendations outlined above. In order to focus on equitable access to education, and further protect our community, we request that you change the current reentry plan to include these recommendations at the board meeting June 30, 2020.
Thank you for your continued commitment to the MCCSC students, faculty and staff.
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