Dear BTU Family,
We know it has been a very challenging week and are very aware there has been a lack of both consistency and clarity on expectations school to school as we move from our classrooms to a dependence on technology this week. We are also aware that some of the plans are quite unsustainable and that everyone is entering this work with different levels of experience with remote tools.
Please know that we have requested to meet with BPS for over a week now. We sent a request to impact bargain last Thursday and requested repeatedly to meet to discuss expectations moving forward, including over last weekend, as we knew remote learning expectations would be a challenge should schools be closed.
The district sent us their proposed expectations for the majority of job categories yesterday evening. Our negotiating team met virtually for several hours today to review them and we will be “meeting” with BPS tomorrow to (hopefully) finalize these expectations before the start of next week.
In the interim, we have been working very hard to both make sure that all of our members are not financially harmed during this time while also seeking to understand the “lay of the land” that is shifting daily, assess the new challenges and compile questions from the many different bargaining units of our union. We are also fighting for all workers to have many of the benefits we are grateful to have secured.
Here are some new updates, clarifications, and highlights from last night’s joint letter and bulletin. Again, we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work on defining the previously undefined and negotiate with the district. We hope to have even more specific details to share tomorrow and over the weekend as we continue to work around the clock.
Clarifications and Updates:
- The description yesterday of the three pay periods which cover the six weeks of school closures was NOT meant to suggest that BTU members would not continue to get compensated should the school closure be extended. It was to help clarify to per diem subs how their pay, which varies week to week would be calculated. Of course, we expect continued compensation and will advocate that all workers, including all BTU members and our least financially secure members such as per diem subs, will be held harmless as they continue to provide classroom supports and educational opportunities to students despite the school closures.
- Chromebooks will be distributed to all students, not just grades 3-12
- All reports for services should be updated for dates up to March 16–we are getting clarification on what is expected beyond March 17.
- If you need help with using or setting up Google Classrooms, please check out useful resources from the Digital Learning Team, a group that includes many BTU members. They have webinars on common topics, 1:1 and small group office hours, and more available. You can also find archived webinars and other fun curated resources by teachers and schools.
- Reminder: Please fill out this survey to help the TelescopeNetwork better understand how they can support teachers and families in this new learning climate. The school closures present a new set of teaching and learning challenges we want to know how to best support everyone.
Remote Learning Takeaways from the Joint Letter:
Yesterday, Superintendent Casselius and I sent a joint letter to all educators outlining a shared vision and broad expectations for the period of closure. The BTU wanted to send a shared letter so that educators knew that principals were also being communicated the same expectations. You can find the full letter here, but here are a few key takeaways:
- We share the overarching goal of keeping our students safe, learning and cared for while ensuring that they stay connected to supportive adults from school and to each other.
- Your school leader will be coordinating a system to ensure at least one adult in your school connects with every student. All school-based educators will be asked to establish and maintain this contact with a group of students. Self-contained and classroom teachers should expect this group will be the students in their classroom. School communities will work together to establish student groups for secondary teachers, specialists, ESL/SLIFE, and paraprofessionals.
- We are encouraging all students to be online and for teachers to connect with each of their students every week and providing either supplemental learning opportunities or helping them access the district curated materials.
- Any work that is provided during this time should be considered supplemental-this is not a replacement of regular school days.
- We do not expect formal attendance to be taken or formal grades to be given except those which reflect work through March 16th.
- Specific requirements for ELs and Students with Disabilities are forthcoming. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the US Department of Education have issued guidance on the provision of educational services during COVID-19 related closure.
- Some issues on which we are still waiting or developing guidance and which many of you have asked about include term dates and school calendar, any changes to graduation or promotion requirements, specific work expectations for all BTU bargaining units (we hope to have this out tomorrow), evaluation and artifacts, final course grades and informal assessment of student work, early college, AP and IB grades and exams.
Please note that everything is still very new, very fluid and everything continues to change and evolve. We are doing our best to communicate changes as they occur.
Here are other COVID-19-related updates:
- The American Federation of Teachers is calling for a bold stimulus bill to be passed equaling at least $1.5 trillion in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Click here to read the AFT’s top asks to be considered by Congress as they develop this package.
- Gabriel Baldwin, a mindfulness educator has created a YouTube channel with several videos to help practice mindfulness during this uncertain time. There are specialized videos for several different demographics, including ones specifically for middle schoolers, teachers, parents, children, and young adults.
- FirstBook has shared that Red Apple Reading has donated free access to their teacher-designed program of unique videos and games that make it fun to learn. For a limited time, while supplies last, you can order a freeRed Apple Readingeducator subscription – good for 12 months and including access for up to 30 students. If you haven’t signed up for free resources and discounted book from First Book we encourage you to do so at www.firstbook.org/aft
- While most of our cultural institutions in Boston are closed, you can bring your students on a virtual field trip by taking tours of museums and galleries from all over the world, thanks to a resource from Google Arts & Culture. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, the State House, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and more!
- Over 800 BTU members have already signed up to participate in the BTU Volunteer Corps. Many of them have already helped out this week! You can still sign up here. Needs include helping with delivering food, distributing chrome books, helping frontline health care workers with childcare, and helping the elderly.
We will continue to send updates as needed and thank everyone for all of their hard work–we at the BTU are working as hard we can, too.
We also wanted to remind everyone that during stressful times–when patience is thin, anxiety is high and fear is very real–simple kindness can be everything.
Let’s please show each other kindness during these tough times.