This week, our Bargaining Team won a key victory on safety, but we seem to be on a collision course with the District on instruction and equity.
KEY SAFETY VICTORY
The good news first. We have been fighting hard since August for safety measures that ensure that our return to school campuses will keep our students, educators, and families safe. We are getting very close to agreement on crucial terms of safety, including ensuring adequate ventilation in all our classrooms.
We continue to closely monitor the number of new COVID-19 cases in Multnomah county. Hopefully community transmission will continue to decline and we will be able to bring students and educators together safely on our school campuses this spring.
However, we must do that in a way that meets our students' most urgent social and emotional needs, without any further erosion to academic instruction. Despite the clear objections from our Bargaining Team and our membership, the District is doubling down on simulcast instruction, for grades K-12.
SIMULCAST IS NOT WHAT OUR STUDENTS DESERVE
As educators, we also know it is critical that any plans we make for the spring must center the needs of our most-impacted students and families. We must not exacerbate the inequalities created by this pandemic for so many of our students.
For example, we’ve seen first hand how families of color in Multnomah county have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, even more than the aggregate data suggest. Despite this, PPS is justifying their simulcast plans with survey results that do not include the voices of the majority of our families of color, or of our families in Title I, CSI, and TSI schools.
Of course, we worry about students in CDL, especially those who struggle to stay engaged. According to the parent survey results that PPS presented at last night’s board meeting, “In-person Peer Interaction” is the greatest unmet need of students whose families completed the survey.
But that’s also why the District's plan is such a jarring contradiction. Simulcast is not a model that supports in-person peer interaction, and it does NOT meet our students’ academic or social-emotional needs.
For students who return to the classroom, they will be required to remain seated at desks for 2 hours at a time with their teacher’s attention divided between them and their peers watching from home, all while managing technology and enforcing student compliance with strict safety protocols.
For the students watching from home, they will lose the best of what CDL has provided-- the attention from, and interaction with, their teacher and other students during remote lessons.
This is why 93% of PAT members agree that the Simulcast model does NOT meet the needs of students.
A DIFFERENT PATH FORWARD
We know that the pandemic is not over, and staying safe is a non-negotiable. If new COVID-19 infections in our area start to increase again, remaining in CDL is the safest option for our students. If that is the case in April, we are prepared to continue remote learning for all.
We also have reason to hope that by April our safety agreements, and the continued reduction in COVID-19 transmission, will create opportunities to finally see our students face-to-face.
We need to make sure that in this best-case scenario, any plan for in-person learning centers safety, stability, and equity for our students, and that it is focused on our students’ greatest needs. In the final quarter of this unprecedented school year, we must not disrupt the best aspects of CDL, or trade off one students’ opportunity to be in-person, for another students’ opportunity to learn safely from home.
As the educators who work directly with students, we know what our students need, and what is possible within the constraints of the time and resources we have. This is why we need to be at the center of planning for any return to in-person learning.
So, please think about your own students. What has been going well in CDL that you wouldn’t want disrupted? What are your students’ greatest needs that are not being met in a remote environment? And how could we safely meet those needs this spring?
In the coming weeks, we hope to hear from all of you. We plan on holding conversations in every building, as well as with parents and community members, to build a path forward rooted in our shared values of safety, stability, and serving ALL our students.