So many unanswered questions. One of the first things that needs to be clearly stated and is paramount that everybody understands, is that this plan did not require any MITA /Union approval. Unlike APPR plans that are submitted to the state where it is required that we have to sign off. In this case, the district was not obligated to negotiate this with us, barring the very few elements that are contractual. The input we had was from the task force and that provided for input the same way all the stakeholders had input.
As for the instructional part of the plan, the actual breakdown of the days has not been detailed yet, so I really don't know any details about prep periods or how the actual day will work in each building yet. I would say they're probably going to allow the principals to have a lot of input into that and that information will probably be coming out from your principals, but it is definitely their expectation that there will be more live interaction then there was in the spring. That was predictable, but again, not something that they're required to negotiate with us. Their vision as outlined in the plan is some kind of live interaction from our classrooms (while we have students in class) which seems unrealistic.Gary, Terry and I certainly expressed this to them; we continue to express to them, and have also had conversations with our Board of Education members about our concerns. It is yet to be determined exactly how they propose that this be done, and using which specific platforms or devices. Certainly Google Meet is what they're referencing. (We proposed Screencastify and Flipgrid which were overwhelming what our members responded with to my email about the platforms they liked.) The most current legal guidance seems to throw a few obstacles (FERPA etc) into this "live" plan so we will see what develops.
Of course we raised the obvious concerns of the additional prep time this will take, and there was some discussion about the use of common planning time. Again, to be determined, as the details pertaining to the school day are still evolving. Additionally, I spoke w/ Tammy Mays, our Labor Relations Specialist at NYSUT who confirmed this is 1) not subject to our approval and 2) a plan that the Supers developed together in their Association and multiple districts are using it or very similar plans.
Additionally, the actual breakdown of Wednesdays as shown on the plan has not really been determined, other than on Wednesdays there will definitely be distance learning and PD taking place. Teachers will be in the buildings, students will not.
A few other things you should know:
In our discussion with the district about the calendar, Dr. Lonergan wanted to move BOTH the June conference day and Election-day Conference day into that first week of September, which would have resulted in three consecutive conference days on September 1st, 2nd & 3rd. The district has told us that the information and training that they need to convey to all of us about the safety & health guidelines and procedures, protocols for screening, distancing procedures, and general logistics are going to take a full day. Knowing that Wednesdays would also be used for some PD, we felt that moving 1 day was sufficient. Since we had already negotiated the afternoon of June's (2021) conference day to be teacher directed, (which was in exchange for the grading time some of us did on June 16th) we opted for Election Day, so we will be returning on Wednesday September 2nd.
I will take the heat for this decision. Your building reps did not vote on this change. I think we need this additional conference day prior to opening for the additional training time it provides to feel prepared for what is sure to be a very stressful September.
I'm sorry that this is long but I'm trying to give you as much information as I can so that everybody understands the many moving parts to all of this. With that being said they're still moving and things could still change. You can see that the plan as posted does not include many details that are still to be determined.
There were some things that we asked for in the course of our discussions with the district that they WERE in agreement with. One of those was the Code of Conduct. We requested that there be an amendment to the code of conduct in the form of a new and specific section devoted to Covid-19 protocols. We felt that teachers need defined measures to take when students are not in compliance in this situation because it poses a health risk to all. They agreed and actually left it to us to draft it, so we will be working on that in the coming weeks. Tammy will assist. Your input is welcome. If you have ideas about specific things you think would address problems you can foresee with student conduct, please share it with me.
Another request was the district's mask requirements and the purchase of PPE. Masks are required for ALL. The only exception for kids is lunch, which will hopefully be in cafeterias. Their plan mentions mask breaks that teachers can give. No further details on that yet. (in my opinion mask breaks in the classroom defeat the purpose of everyone wearing a mask, but that's just my two cents).
Students using cloth masks that may or may not be washed frequently enough was a concern. We did not want that (cloth) to be the purchasing decision that was made albeit cost-effective. We felt the only way to ensure that we're not compromising the cleanliness and sanitization of our classrooms with gross student's unwashed masks would be to distribute disposable sterile medical-type masks on a daily basis to all faculty and students. They agreed and told us that is what they have purchased. I hope that it will be required that students must use these and are not permitted to use their own. Not sure yet. Teachers will have the option to wear other types of masks if they so choose.
We also addressed other concerns about building ventilation. I raised this concern both on the task force and in subsequent meetings with the district; it is on our written list of concerns that we submitted to Dr Lonergan: ventilation specifically in classrooms and bathrooms. I consider this a major issue in all buildings.
So bottom line, this is not easy. It's going to get worse before it gets better. No matter what the plan looks like now, or how it changes it's never going to make everyone happy. We're still talking about and reading through the CDC/State/ Legal/NYSUT guidance and how it informs the parameters of live instruction and 100 other things. Temperature screenings. Lunch. Buses. Library. PE. Just moving within the buildings. It's frustrating but necessary for everyone to understand that the district is not obliged to negotiate with us on the vast majority of this plan. Of course, regardless of that, we will stay in the game and try to make as many suggestions and have as much input as we can.
I'm sure there are a million other questions out there, go ahead and send them in, I will do my best to answer what I can, with the understanding that right now there are still a lot more questions than answers and that's from the BOE, C/O, NYSUT and MITA.
And of course the biggest unknown is the governor's decision that we should have next week, about whether or not we will be opening at all.
Sorry this got so long.
Tomorrow is August 1. Enjoy this month. Don't stress over Sept. We're not alone. Every school district and every local in NY are dealing with the same concerns and the same obstacles. We'll work through it all, and I am confident that we will figure it out.