School Decision on Friday
This Friday, Aug. 14, the School Committee (of which I am a member) will vote on how we begin the new school year in September. The School Committee has two choices. First, we can allow parents and guardians to choose either a “hybrid” educational model with each student spending some time in a classroom and some time online with distance learning or an all online “distance” educational model. Second, we can vote for only an all “distance” educational model with online learning for all students. (There is one important exception. Regardless of the vote, high-needs students will have in-person learning four or five days a week.)
Notably, whatever the vote, those teachers at high risk for COVID-19 will teach remotely.
We’ve heard from many members of our community – epidemiologists to grocery clerks, teachers and administrators, people working statewide on COVID-19 and education, students and hundreds of parents.
People hold a variety of opinions and points of view. Here’s a sampling from emails I’ve received:
“I strongly believe that reopening schools to any degree of in-person learning poses undue risk …”
“I worry that the choice to default to online learning will create a cycle of inequity … In-person learning is the only equitable solution …”
“My children NEED in-person learning, they need it for their social and emotional development and most importantly they need it to stay healthy and sane.”
“ …. We are gambling with the lives of our children and teachers and school staff.”
“Younger students, like my kindergartner and second grader, don’t engage or learn well through virtual sessions.”
“We must put our efforts into creating a robust distance learning program …”
“ … it is with the full understanding of the medical risks associated with a pandemic … that I am writing you to implore you to open schools this year and allow in person education.”
This is an extraordinarily difficult time for all of us, grappling with many uncertainties, changing information, significant health and financial concerns, and the resulting anxiety and sleepless nights. The decision on how best to provide our students with the excellent and equitable education Newton is known for this September is also difficult, but the time has come to decide.
I know all of us are bringing our best minds and our best hearts to this decision. We’re focusing on the needs of our almost 12,700 students and 2,000+ teachers and staff. The decision will be grounded in safety, social and emotional health, equity and excellence in teaching and learning.
We’ll move forward also knowing that no matter what is decided on Friday, the plan will likely evolve as the weeks pass. Our education team recognizes this and is making sure we can move seamlessly from distance online learning to in-person or vice versa.
Get Zoom instructions here to watch the meeting on Friday at 3 p.m.