With teachers now getting priority vaccination by the dozens in Everett, a tentative agreement has been reached between the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) and the school district to take the next step in its plan to return students five days a week by April 5.
The final agreement is still in the works this week, according to ETA officials, and a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would still need to be approved by the School Committee. However, with the vaccination dilemma solved at the state and federal level, it is unlikely that the plan would encounter any resistance on the Committee as most were in favor of a return as long as teachers were vaccinated.
Supt. Priya Tahiliani put out a letter to parents late last week spelling out a timeline for the return of teachers and students – with students in K-5 grades slated to return to the classroom five days a week by April 5. Families not comfortable with the in-person return would still have the remote Zoom option through the end of the school term.
“After months of delays and detours, hope and frustration, planning and revision, I am thrilled to announce that we can mark our calendars with five words of unmistakable meaning: Back To School In Person,” wrote Tahiliani.
“Productive and robust discussions between the Everett Public Schools and the Everett Teachers Association has resulted in the development of our official back-to-school timeline.”
ETA President Kim Auger said they do have a tentative agreement, but early this week some details were still being negotiated, with one of the key details being the 3-foot of social distance. The Everett Public Schools announced on March 1 they would use three feet of distance between students rather than the six-foot distance originally proposed.
“We do have a tentative agreement on a timeline,” said Auger on Monday, and noting that negotiations were to continue this week. “We do feel the three-foot distance is not enough at this point. We are concerned about quality of learning on both sides. We want to make sure students that are remote and in-person both get a quality education. Many other districts we talked to were having a hard time with that.”
She said they want to move slow on the return of students and make sure the buildings are ventilated, there is PPE and that they can troubleshoot issues.
“We don’t want to move too far, too fast,” said Auger.
School Committee Chair Frank Parker said he was happy with the return schedule and believes it is something everyone is comfortable with.
“Leading up to our March 1 meeting, a number of teachers I spoke to had asked for just a couple more weeks before they went back to school,” he said. “I believe Superintendent Tahiliani and her Administration heard them and in harmony with Ms. Auger and ETA, worked a schedule that the majority of people are satisfied with.”
The timeline allows for teachers to have returned to buildings as early Monday, March 8. However, all teachers and staff are expected to return to school on March 22 to prepare for students. On Monday, March 29, all special education students in sub-separate classes from Pre-K to grade 12 will return five days per week.
Then on Monday, April 5, all students in grades K-5, will return to classrooms five days per week.
So far, grades 6-12 are still uncertain and state guidance is being awaited on when they will return in the older grades, but that is likely sooner than later as the plan develops in the next several days.
“I am thrilled with this schedule,” wrote Tahiliani. “I applaud our administration and the ETA for formulating a plan that is practical and proactive… Given the state’s recommendation for an April restart, cycling from remote to hybrid to in-person in as little as four to six weeks would have been burdensome. I am pleased that we can focus all of our energy on in-person teaching and learning.” Tahiliani said K-5 families will be sending out forms very soon where they will make their decision to opt into in-person learning, or to opt-out and to stay remote. Families will be able to switch from in-person to remote at any time during the rest of the year, but there will be only designated enrollment periods where families can move students from remote to in-person. More details on the re-opening will likely become available late this week or early next week.