Union, Parent Letter Seeks School Reopening Delay
By Emily Hays,2021-01-15
With the first day of resumed in-person, pandemic school days away, some New Haven teachers, parents and community leaders asked the district to pause on reopening until Feb. 1.
They made the request in a letter released Thursday. (Read it below in this article.)
Starting next Tuesday, pre-K through third-grade students will have the option of attending in-person classes four days a week. They will learn remotely one day (probably Wednesday) while the schools undergo deep cleaning. Special ed and “New Arrivals” program students will alsp have in-person options.
The goal of the parent-union letter is to get a clear guidance document on Covid-19 procedures, beyond the reopening plan created this summer and the shorter document for families.
“In the continued absence of such a plan, staff report confusion and inconsistency in safety standards. Families in turn report inadequate and inconsistent information to make informed decisions and prepare children for school in just a few days,” the letter states.
The New Haven Board of Education heard similar calls during its meeting on Monday. A majority of the board decided not to vote to pause reopening, given recent research on student safety and the safety measures the district has taken so far.
Read the full letter below.
Letter from NHFT, CPT, NHPSA, Partners
January 14, 2021
Dear Dr. Tracey, Mayor Elicker, and President Rivera,
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been asked to plan for and navigate unknown territory as a new human pathogen spreads among our community. We appreciate your efforts to lead us in cautiously reopening schools and believe that our collective efforts thus far have saved lives.
At the same time, the current New Haven Public Schools’ reopening proposal is missing critical information that puts lives at risk. Since last summer, staff and families repeatedly requested, in various ways and venues, system-wide guidance on infection control policies and procedures, collected in one single reference document, disseminated through system-wide training for staff, as well as communication with families. It could draw from, update, and expand upon the preliminary work of the Tiger Team draft proposals last summer. This is standard practice nationally; see plans from other districts here (scroll down). In the continued absence of such a plan, staff report confusion and inconsistency in safety standards. Families in turn report inadequate and inconsistent information to make informed decisions and prepare children for school in just a few days.
The undersigned individuals and organizations have varying opinions on when and under what conditions it is safe to re-open schools. However, we all agree that an essential requirement for safe school reopening is a reference guide that addresses the most common operational questions and scenarios. These topics include: breakfast and lunch; bathrooms; mask breaks; opening windows and doors; physical distancing; overflow rooms; recess; physical education; music; busing; shared classroom supplies and equipment; maintaining adequate PPE and hygiene supplies; coverage during staff quarantine; ADA approved staff coverage (substitute teachers); paid leave for staff affected by COVID isolation room; risk mitigation for staff in contact with large numbers of children weekly; and management of asthma attacks and life-threatening allergies. While each school has particularities, universal infection control practices must be centrally established and disseminated in order to maximize protection.
The New Haven Public Schools would be negligent to reopen in the absence of this centralized guidance. We call on you to steward a process for compiling uniform infection control policies and procedures with urgency, in consultation with families, staff, health professionals, and community partners. We further call on you to delay the reopening of school until no earlier than Monday February 1 in order to allow these policies and procedures to be assembled and disseminated, staff to be trained, and families informed.
We hope to have your partnership in doing so. We are prepared to pursue all possible avenues to ensure that this critical guidance is in place before schools reopen.
David Cicarella, President, New Haven Federation of Teachers
Sarah Miller, New Haven Public School Advocates
Nijija-Ife Waters, President, Citywide Parent Team
Rev. Scott Marks and New Haven Rising Key Leaders
John Lugo, Unidad Latina en Acción
Katherine Hinds, Action Together CT-New Haven County
Dr. Alison Galvani, Burnett and Stender Families Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, Yale School of Public Health
Rev. Boise Kimber, President, Greater New Haven Clergy Association
Dr. Brett Lindenbach, Associate Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale School of Medicine
Rhonda Caldwell, Hamden Action Now
Dr. Valerie Horsley, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Dermatology, Yale University and School of Medicine
Catherine John, Black and Brown United in Action
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