Less than one month ago, on November 15, BTU educators and parents reached an agreement with the Boston Public Schools that put important, basic, common sense protections for safety, staffing, and learning in place at four schools that the Boston Teachers Union had supported opening to prioritize the needs of our highest-need students.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, educators, and the community have advocated to BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius for these important, common sense reopening provisions in our schools such as:
- Prioritizing in-person learning for special education students, particularly those who cannot access remote learning
- Safe ventilation and air quality standards
- Vents in bathrooms and working sinks with soap for handwashing
- A scheduling process that takes into account pre-existing medical conditions of educators and their families
- PPE for educators, nurses and staff working with students who cannot socially distance or wear masks
- Access to COVID-19 testing
We all know these provisions should have been agreed to earlier so that families would have more notice and clarity on reopening conditions, and since it was clear COVID-19 rates, tragically, were bound to rise due to the federal government’s negligent bungling of the pandemic – and a failure by Governor Baker to take key steps that would have helped to curb the spread in Massachusetts.
While the spike was inevitable, we all knew that it would be important to figure out ways to return our highest-needs students to in-person learning as soon as possible, even if rates persisted. That is why educators, families, and the overall community welcomed and applauded the November 15 agreement which provided a framework to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to improve the quality of in-person and remote learning within the BPS system as we welcomed back our highest-need students.
The provisions reflected in the November 15 agreement, which can be read here, are practical, student-centered, and essential to keeping our communities and school buildings safe. There is nothing extraneous in these agreements.
That is why it has been a shock and profoundly surprising to many of us that Supt. Cassellius has yet to guarantee those same provisions to the other 28 schools slated for reopening on Monday.
As stated in our resolution calling for a comprehensive plan from Supt. Cassellius, which you can read here, we call for the same safety, instructional, and staffing provisions that exist at the four currently open schools to be extended to the 28 additional schools where staff and students will be present on Monday.
Every educator and every student is worthy of these same protections from the district and many educators have expressed frustration that their school may be treated as less deserving of having these protections memorialized in writing than another.
It hurts the trust of educators and of families when the district holds out on extending these provisions equally to schools, particularly when the district holds out on putting those provisions in writing even as COVID-19 rates continue to persist at dangerously high levels across our city.
The district should not be arbitrarily picking and choosing higher standards for some schools over others – it is not just and it is not safe – and the hesitancy to confirm these standards in an agreement with educators sends the wrong signals, even if unintentionally, to the entire community.
The conditions set forth in the November 15 agreement are inherently reasonable, pragmatic, and are a model that should be extended through the system, beginning with the schools slated for reopening Monday. Why does the Supt. think it is okay to ask certain school communities to settle for lower standards than others? It doesn’t add up and it is a matter that can easily be resolved.
With time running out, and since Supt. Cassellius has not yet indicated that she will assure educators, families and schools these equal protections under formal BPS policies, we are having an emergency membership meeting tomorrow, Sunday, December 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Quick reminders for registering:
- Please remember that you must register at least one hour in advance, or you will not receive a link.
- Each link is unique and cannot be shared.
- You only need to sign up once per meeting.
- Links are sent after your registration and membership status are verified – please do not register multiple times if you do not immediately receive a link.
- Remember to include your exact BPS ID# in order to expedite approvals. If you are retired or don’t have an ID# for another reason, please enter “000000.”
- Please make sure that you have updated your Zoom account with the latest update before the meeting in order to avoid complications with your link.
We do not want to normalize what is happening and we are advocating for her to prioritize equality within BPS by extending these provisions in a formal document.
In the event that we do not receive an agreement that ensures equal safety protections, we are asking every member of the BTU to take action on Monday morning, before school starts.
For members who are reporting in-person, we are asking you to participate in a socially-distanced standout for 10 minutes before school starts on Monday morning.
For those who are not reporting in-person, post a photo on social media wearing red and holding a sign using the hashtag #SafetyFirstBPS.
BTU members in other schools will be able to support these educators in other ways. More details on all of the above will be provided during the emergency membership meeting and in a special bulletin to Building Reps and through our BTU Action Team.
We hope you will join Sunday night’s emergency meeting.
We will continue to be in this together,
BTU Officers and Staff