COMMENTARY: ‘Be Kind’ to School Committee Members as They Vote on Which of Three Plans to Follow While COVID-19 Rages

 

At tonight’s School Committee meeting, the members will be taking a vote on which plan to prioritize for the start of the 20/21 school year. Whether you plan to watch, or find out what was said afterwards, please consider this:

School Committees should never have been put in this position. Education Commissioner Riley tasked individual districts with the impossible by asking all districts to “prioritize in-person instruction,” but with very little guidance about how to make that a reality. In the state’s decision to let each district decide for themselves, they are acknowledging that no two districts are alike. They are acknowledging that educational inequities that already exist will be amplified, and that socioeconomic disparities and learning gaps will increase, and negatively affect our most vulnerable students and families.

School Committee members are being asked to take into account data from multiple sources – the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, their own districts’ parent surveys, staff surveys, and building assessments. They are being asked to listen to the opinions of health experts, epidemiologists, teachers, administration, and parents – all of whom have varied opinions. There is no clear answer, no right answer, and certainly no answer that will make everyone happy.

They didn’t ask for a global pandemic. They didn’t ask to be in this position. They are our neighbors, they are our friends, they are parents, and they are volunteers. So please, when you find out the “plan,” remember all of this, and be kind.– Megan Eckroth, former Westford School Committee member