At a meeting of the APEA Representative Council on Monday evening, members of the APEA expressed great care for their students as well as concern over the rapidly approaching deadlines of return to in-person learning in the Amherst-Pelham School District. We acknowledge that the children in our classrooms are not just our students, they are our neighbors, we shop with their families, and we’re also parents and community members. We, like many of the families in the community, have questions about day-to-day logistics, teaching assignments, and thresholds for potential closures based on community COVID transmission. A School Committee vote last week declared the mode of learning and potential closures to be the responsibility of Superintendent Michael Morris. Other safety measures laid out in the District-APEA Memorandum of Agreement still apply, however.
We heard positive news from the APEA Executive Board that they are meeting regularly with the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent in a spirit of collaboration, and that the our Proactive Planning Committee continues to develop ideas for a safe return to in-person learning. Generally, building administrators have welcomed our offer to work together on these plans. However, since all decision making remains in the hands of administrators, we are concerned that outcomes will not necessarily reflect teacher voices.
We also see challenges. Since the School Committee’s unanimous vote last week, school administrators have instructed elementary staff to refrain from telling families whether they will be working remotely or in-person. Some staff may not return to in-person school because of health reasons or administrative decisions based on the numbers of families who opt for their children to stay remote. Students may have a different teacher for the remainder of the year as a result.
An added hope and frustration is around COVID vaccinations. We welcomed Biden’s push to get vaccines out to educators this month, and were relieved that Governor Baker responded to educators’ pleas to move them up the vaccine schedule. But getting an appointment has proven difficult. The APEA urges the Town of Amherst and District to work together to provide a town-sponsored staff vaccine day, as Greenfield recently announced.
We will provide the best education we possibly can, whether our students are new to us or familiar, remote or in-person.