Scores of educators in the Everett Public Schools sent letters with serious concerns to the Everett School Committee on Tuesday in anticipation of the vote Tuesday night to potentially approve a plan to move towards a hybrid in-person education model.
The School Committee meeting took place on Tuesday night due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and came after deadlines for the paper. That said, the topic of moving to a hybrid in-person model came up at the last meeting and an initial plan for the move had the schools returning grade by grade starting on Feb. 1. Meanwhile, last week there were talks between the School Administration and the Everett Teachers Association about a concrete timeline for the return. That timeline is expected to be shared at the Tuesday night meeting.
However, prior to that educators from across the district sent a mass mailing to members of the Committee saying they had major concerns about returning to the classroom and felt they weren’t at the table.
“As an educator of the Everett Public School District, I am very concerned regarding the strategy to move to a hybrid teaching model when the pandemic is currently raging at dangerously high levels,” read the letter. “At the time of writing this letter, Everett’s positivity rate is 14.5%. While this is not unique to Massachusetts or the rest of the country, the concept of gravitating to a hybrid model is very premature and puts all educators, students, and administrators at risk…Please do what is right for our community and allow this to be a transparent process where all stakeholders have a voice.”
Across the board, many educators in the Everett Public Schools have concerns about the district’s plan to move students back into the classroom, even on a staggered basis. That sentiment has been growing stronger over the past several weeks as cases have surged in Everett after the holidays, and many educators have only recently learned of the plan. Some have said the membership of the ETA didn’t even expect a discussion about returning until positivity rates were at least below 5 percent. With those rates now approaching 15 percent, many in the ranks were a bit taken by surprise.
Some School Committee members and Supt. Priya Tahiliani have said over the past week that the game-changer in the conversation was the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that it could become available as soon as early February for Everett educators. That, Tahiliani said, was one reason things changed so rapidly with the plan.
The letter on Tuesday from educators asked for clarification on three key questions from the membership.
The first was about not being included int eh conversation and planning on the hybrid plan – asking why educators and administrators were not included in the planning.
Second, the letter asks for an explanation of why the key metric of being below 5 percent positivity rate suddenly doesn’t apply.
Finally, the letter asks why such a disruptive move to hybrid in-person education is being considered when it could be risking lives and instruction likely won’t improve.
It wasn’t immediately available how many letters were sent to members of the School Committee by educators, but it was believed on first glance that hundreds were e-mailed.