HCTA Urges School Board to Prioritize Safety & People

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As we apprach the return of Hernando students to our schools in the weeks ahead, our message to the decision makers remains unchanged: The safety of our students and staff MUST come first!  Teachers are bracing for a year expected to look like no other. We need the full support of leaders and the larger community to ensure the safe reopening of our schools.

 

  • According to the Hernando County Dept of Emergency Management, it is best practice to  ‘wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.’ It seems unrealistic to expect that frequent hand washing will be possible for all students and staff throughout the day. Will the Board commit to providing a supply of hand sanitizer for every classroom as other districts have already done?
  • Although we are just beginning to see positivity rates in Hernando dip below 10%, it is critical that we remain vigilant on safety measures as we reopen. The potential for community cases to rapidly increase as students and faculty return to the brick and mortar setting is tremendous. Balancing of class loads and managing transition of students between learning environments should focus on maintaining class sizes that provide the MAXIMUM opportunity for social distancing.
  • Teachers know that short of a entirely online reopening there is no guarantee of a completely COVID-risk-free classroom. In fact, the chances are high that teachers and other school staff face the risk of multiple exposures and possibly multiple periods of quarantine. The 10 days of emergency leave provide under the FFCRA is not enough to cover multiple quarantine events. We would encourage the Board to consider an enhancement of paid leave options, allowing the employees to reserve their accrued leave for the myriad of other legitimate leave needs they have.
  • We offer a reminder to the Board: as budgeting decisions are made, it will be educators – not programs or consultants – who close the gap in student learning gains. The proposal to hire outside contractors--particularly TNTP--is questionable at best. Please prioritize the people who are tasked with ultimate responsibility for student safety and learning in your budget decisions.
  • Teachers are imploring parents to be our partners in protecting students. Practice and encourage social distancing and wearing of face coverings when social distancing is not guaranteed. We face a tremendous challenge in juggling new learning platforms in order to provide the academic support needed to close learning gaps. By reinforcing the behaviorial expectations for students in safe reopening, you are allowing teachers to focus more intensely on the academic needs of our students. We need you as our allies!

 

 

Please plan to attend the 8/25/2020 School Board Meeting (6pm) and help us continue to elevate the voices of educators. If you are unable to attend, please submit public comment in support of safe reopening of our classrooms.