The People's Alliance Education Action Team has submitted the following statement to the Durham Public Schools Board of Education regarding re-entry to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dear DPS Board of Education,
Governor Cooper has recently announced that local school boards can allow NC elementary schools to implement Plan A at full capacity with only masks required. The People’s Alliance Education Action Team would like to stand in solidarity with Durham County educators and strongly oppose a full return to Plan A. While we are encouraged by the decline in the positive test rate in Durham County, we ask the board to consider a cautious reopening plan that is equitable and fair to ALL students and educators.
The Education Action Team believes Durham County numbers remain low because students have remained in remote learning environments. We feel that Plan C should continue for the second quarter in order to maintain class cohesion and ensure adequate time for a safe and consensus-based transition. However, we also recognize that distance learning is not optimal and affects families in different ways according to their needs and circumstances. Thus we ask the BOE to consider the following in preparing a cautious Plan B.
- The guiding principle of any reopening plans should be the safety of students, teachers,
- Standards for reopening should be based on scientific research. Benchmarks for reopening should be made explicit to all stakeholders and plans should be in place for a return to Plan C if benchmarks are exceeded while plan B is in effect.
- DPS should provide weekly reports on COVID positive cases either via DPS websites or through NCHHS reporting systems. Schools impacted by COVID should provide easily accessible information about the number of students/staff affected, as well as the DPS response for each case and/or cluster of cases. We understand that due to HIPPA laws information on specific classrooms may not be shared, but we ask DPS to be as transparent as possible within the confines of privacy laws.
- PPE must be provided by DPS and should always be available. There needs to be an independent process to take complaints and reports about lack of PPE.
- Any return to school should be on a volunteer basis for both teachers and students/families. Teachers should have the option to continue teaching remotely if they feel it is not yet safe for them to teach in-person. Teachers should not have to share private health information about themselves or their families to justify their decision.
- Teachers should not be asked to teach both online and in person.
- We strongly urge a phased return, with a priority of students with highest need for in-person instruction. As stated above, we feel a full implementation of Plan B for Quarter 2 would be premature. However, options for school-based learning pods should be explored and considered for K-1 learners, students with moderate to severe learning disabilities, and students whose families report significant challenges with the logistics of online learning. These intermediate steps could pave the way for a full implementation of Plan B in January if conditions continue to improve, as we hope they do.
In closing, we recognize the challenge and uncertainty of the fall. We are thankful for the hard work that the district and its teachers have put in to bring us forward from where we were during the fourth quarter of last year. We believe in the importance of the physical and mental well-being of all students, educators and staff. Thus, we ask that any executed plan should minimize the disruption to instruction, and allow flexibility during transition.
Durham People’s Alliance Education Action Team