EG Parents for In-Person Learning Responses, 2/28/21

by | Feb 28, 2021

Half of the country’s public schools have no in-person learning at all right now. Rhode Island has been an outlier in the northeast in getting kids back in school in-person last September. Considering all the obstacles (the virus itself, reluctant and scared staff, EG’s lack of easy extra space), how do you square your push for MS and HS 5-day in-person now? 

We could debate which half of the country’s public schools have taken the better approach and eventually we may need to. However, that is not really what parents are currently asking of the EGSD School Committee and Administration. Specifically, the circulating petition only asks the district to publicize the objective metrics they are using (or plan to use) in continuing or modifying the current mitigation strategies. Our petition was created and has received significant community support because there is an overwhelming body of evidence from parent and student experiences that shows the quality of education in this school year has not met the standard for academics and student social and emotional wellbeing. That reality is coming at the expense of our children. Therefore, advocating for our kids has become the primary purpose regardless of the challenges facing the district and community. 

Do you have thoughts about how to handle the space issues at Cole and the high school? Do you advocate the pod approach seen at the elementary schools? Or should the district be looking for additional outside space? 

Every parent will have an opinion on such matters. However, our perspective is limited, and we have not been elected or hired to manage such challenges. Serving on the School Committee in one of the state’s top districts carries the burden of leadership, adaptability, and innovative practices. Evidence* suggests other schools around the state and country may have surpassed EGSD in the quality of education being offered during this difficult time. The EGSD administrators and School Committee are charged with discerning the best practices to achieve our shared goals. As parents, we would like to participate in the debate, and the information we seek is necessary for us to meaningfully do so. But ultimately, it is the EGSD administrators and School Committee who must step up and restore EGSD educational standards to what they once were. Leadership and innovation must overcome the challenges and avoid excuses. An informed public discussion and transparent metric-based decision-making will promote accountability and responsiveness to the community’s needs.

*The evidence we refer to is the reality that in nearby RI communities, MS and HS students have been given the choice of full-time, in-person instruction. That opportunity alone for the students of those districts puts them in position to receive a greater educational experience than is currently in place for EGSD’s MS and HS students. And the nearly 500 signatures on a less-than-one-week old petition cements our firm belief that the academic and social/emotional decline of our community’s students is at a crisis point and must take priority immediately.

What do you say to teachers and staff who are anxious about getting sick or getting a loved one sick? Are you willing to wait until teachers and staff are vaccinated? 

We know that’s a key topic and an apparent obstacle, but we are looking for all parties to come to the table with solutions. We want all involved to stop being paralyzed by obstacles and put much more effort into finding solutions for the kids. We can’t stress this enough. We certainly support prioritization of teachers vaccination, but we do not believe that necessarily has to be a prerequisite to full return. The CDC agrees, and other schools in Rhode Island, both public and private, have already returned to 5-day in-person learning across all grade levels. 

What are your thoughts about school sports? And restaurants and bars open to indoor eating and drinking at 50 percent capacity? Should the schools and town be looking at tighter restrictions to enable all kids to be able to attend 5-day in-person school? 

School sports, the arts, clubs, and many other activities that extend beyond academics are an important part of the social and emotional health of students. For that reason, our petition specifically asks the administration and School Committee to address what objective metrics must be met to return all activities for students across all grades. We are happy the district has demonstrated some leadership and innovation in the area of sports, and we are hopeful they will meet the challenge to create similar success with respect to other activities, which like sports, create positive social and emotional benefits but require in-person engagement to do so.

School is the safest place to be. Community infection rates across the country have consistently been higher than in-school transmission. Schools provide a controlled environment and could very well support the entire community in reducing the infection rates by increasing the number of people each day in a such an environment. 

About the recent decision getting rid of asynchronous Mondays:

We are thrilled with this announcement and more motivated than ever to work together on, and see a plan for, the return of full-time, in-person instruction for our MS and HS students.

Who are the group’s leaders?

A large group of concerned parents are seeing, before their eyes, a clear decline in their children’s interest, motivation, and curiosity about learning as a result of the hybrid model. The voice representing EG’s students has developed organically based on these significant concerns and the realities we are seeing each day. To define “leaders” at this point would potentially dismiss the passionate and vocal effort of hundreds of early voices who are exclusively focused on a plan that prioritizes the students of EG getting back in the classroom five days per week.

 

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