We are APS parents, teachers, and staff working to urge APS to prioritize safety in return to school plans.
The RTS debate has become charged; some have even framed it as parents vs. teachers. That could not be further from the truth, as far as we are concerned. We support one another, and we all want safe schools for our students, teachers and staff. It’s not parents vs. teachers and staff. It’s all of us vs. COVID-19.
To be sure, there are some who hold extreme positions, but the loudest voices should not influence policy. It’s far better to seek a reasonable middle ground as APS works to reopen buildings safely. We’re optimistic that APS can do this, because so many parents, teachers and staff want similar things and share common concerns. Those of us who signed this letter certainly do.
Together, we urge APS to:
- Mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 in schools by putting a HEPA air cleaner in every classroom and holding lunch outdoors.
- Publicly disclose all COVID-19 cases in schools, in real time.
- Provide weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing to all in-person students, teachers, and staff.
- Provide the accommodation of telework to teachers and staff who need it, when hybrid begins.
- Establish and commit to safety-based metrics with clear standards to determine moves to Levels 2 and 3. Thresholds for opening – and closing if need be – should be set and communicated to the community ahead of time.
- Use a needs-based, phased-in approach when determining which students will return to in-person school first, starting with smaller numbers of high-needs students.
These measures should be put in place as soon as possible, and before starting Levels 2 and 3.
We cannot support starting hybrid for Levels 2 and 3 this winter, given the exceedingly high current levels of COVID-19 in our community. It would be particularly shortsighted to open buildings now when teachers and staff are so close to being vaccinated. We urge APS to re-evaluate the situation in the spring.
By taking these steps now, APS can prioritize safety, balance competing considerations and address the concerns and needs of large numbers of students, families, staff and teachers. This provides a reasonable “middle ground” path forward during this difficult time. Let’s make this a #SmartRestartAPS.