Hello Everyone and Happy Friday. If you watched last night's BOE meeting you know that the district is not only continuing their plan to return K-6 starting on Jan 25th, but has now expanded it to secondary students returning starting on Feb 1.
If you have a question or comment for Dr. Lonergan's Zoom meeting coming up on Weds Jan 13th, please submit it to us at Office@Middleislandteachers.org so that we can compile them and submit them in advance to him. This will help make the most of the time during his meeting and ensure that we are not asking duplicate questions.
I will reiterate again, that while we as teachers ALL want our kids back and to return to normal, MITA as an organization will ALWAYS advocate for our collective safety, and working within the safest conditions possible.
There will be no way to maintain the current protocols with all students returning to school. While the #s are still uncertain due to those who will opt to continue distance learning, what is certain is that there will be additional students in our buildings and social distancing will immediately be compromised. Shields are NOT a viable substitute for distance when dealing with an airborne virus. The DOH doesn't even recognize shields as a protective mitigation.
The district continues to cite that there has been no spread at school. While it is true that there have not been widespread outbreaks, I am not as confident that there have not been cases contracted at school. How would we know? We are not testing, and it is well-documented that it is spread by asymptomatic carriers.
It seems common sense to me that the reason we have had the relatively low incidence of cases in the district is because of the minimal amount of students in, and the masks and social distancing guidelines being followed. To compromise that puts all of us at risk. I say this not to panic anyone or add to your anxiety, but because I want you to know what we have been communicating to Central Office Administration throughout these recent months.
I understand that some of our members support the idea of returning all students at this time. I respect their point of view. My objection to it is on the basis of preserving the safest working conditions for ALL of us, including those who disagree with MITA's position.
Testing may commence at any time depending on the Governor declaring us a "zone" in accordance with his criteria that has been issued over the past month. Longwood is prepared to start if and when that designation happens. Districts have been given permission to start testing ahead of such a designation if they so choose. Testing for students requires parental consent. The district will start with staff who have agreed to be tested, but if they need additional tests to comply with state level percentages, according to NYSUT Legal, they have the right to make the tests mandatory for staff.
Vaccines are around the corner. As soon as I have any details on how and when this will be offered to educators, I will share that information immediately. Dr. Lonergan has committed to offering them at school or in conjunction with our Just Kids medical partners, if that is an option. I understand from state guidance that we are in group 1B. (1A is underway now, healthcare workers) There are statewide plans to conduct vaccines for educators through the retail network of Target, Walgreens and CVS, among others. I will let you know if I get any details, such as if we will be issued some kind of documentation or if there will be a registration of some kind. I have asked these questions to the NYSUT Executive Board but they do not have these answers yet.
Lastly, I want to thank you all for your support. So many of you have taken the time to contact myself and the other MITA officers to express concerns but also to thank us for our efforts or just express support in general. I can' t tell you how very much that has been appreciated, particularly now when we understand that there are so many issues that we are all dealing with and so many that we have not been able to impact in the ways we would like to. I just want to say from me personally to all of you that I feel sorry on a daily basis that there is not more that I can do to improve your various situations. I share your concerns, anxieties, fear and frustrations. I am living them just as you are. I am in class each morning with 2 masks and a face shield. My room is freezing from the open windows. My desktop computer has no camera and no microphone, so I use both that, and my Chromebook each day simultaneously,in order to use the Smartboard AND connect with my virtual students. No matter what I do in class, I feel like I am short-changing some group of students.
Uphill battle or not, I will not stop advocating for the safest set of conditions possible.
I hope you all have a great weekend! Send in your questions!