August 4 2020

Burlington Educators Association Joins in Signing Open Letter Call for Full Remote Start of School Year

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Educators Association joined with more than 30 other educator organizations, representing over 10,000 teachers, in signing an open letter to school leaders in the state and school department administrators calling for classes to begin remotely and gradually transition to in-person learning. 


Educators continue to grapple with weighing the benefits of in-person instruction versus the health and safety standards needed to return to classrooms and campuses,” they wrote. “Faced with a pandemic that is actively spreading to children, teens, and adults, we know that it is not safe to return to in-person learning at this time.”


The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is requiring each school department to submit three plans for the fall: an in-person only plan, a hybrid model and a plan for full remote learning. In Burlington the initial plans put out by the School Department have focused on a hybrid model, with students school a couple days a week and remote learning the rest of the time. When students are in school, they will be required to wear masks and desks will be set up in a socially distanced way, though in most classrooms not a full six feet.  


The final set of plans from each district is due to DESE on August 10 though Burlington Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti has said they plan to request an extension until August 14


In the letter, the teacher associations said they “are recommending our districts and campuses return to learning in September with a gradual phased-in approach that is tied to public health and safety benchmarks.” 


If the situation with the pandemic improves, they go on to say, then in-person learning can begin. 


“The safe return to learning in September must be guided by science--not by a school calendar,” they wrote. “We are calling upon all public schools to begin the school year with a comprehensive distance learning plan that has the potential to graduate to a hybrid learning model. The graduation from the distance learning phase to a hybrid phase must be defined within each local district using public health benchmarks, a thorough evaluation of the buildings to ensure they are safe places for learning, and investment to make necessary improvements.”


The educators continue by saying that there are still too many cases of the coronavirus in the state and region to open up schools without a high risk of creating more cases. 


“As educators, we cannot risk a premature return to in-person learning that will result in educators, students, or their families getting sick and dying,” the letter states. “In order to protect the health and safety of our communities, we must direct our energy at the development of high-quality distance learning. It is imperative for educators to be involved in the decision-making process at both the local and state level.”


Finally, the educators say they want to return to school, but they don’t feel it is safe in the current situation. 


“As educators, we are advocating for a return to in-person learning that is guided by science, educational best practice, and the health and safety of our students and educators,” they wrote. “The stakes have never been higher. Not one single person should get sick or die because we opened our doors prematurely. The only acceptable death count is zero.”


You can read the full letter here.


There are also many other sources of information on Burlington School’s reopening plans. Superintendent Conti and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin have hosted two info sessions. The first, outlining the plans and showing results of a parent/guardian survey, can be found here. The second, focusing on health principles and answering parents’ questions can be found here


Superintendent Conti also joined BCAT for a Superintendent Update on the plans and what would happen if a student is found to have the virus. Click Here to watch that segment. 



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