We know what a table is when we see it, because it whether it's tall or short, metal or wood, etc., if it bears the properties we typically associate with tables, we can easily identify it as one. While there have always been minor differences from one district to the next, we all worked off the same idea of what school is. Watching reopening plans take form across the Island, it's clear that there's no longer a singular, unifying version of the thing that used to be known as school. At this point, I think if we propose to reopen as a Starbucks with social distancing, it may be approved by SED.
Just looking at the last few days on LI, I've seen districts with plans to bring all students back full time. I've seen districts with plans to keep all students learning remotely, with the exception of those who really struggle to do so. I've seen districts suggest that if you use barriers, you can go about your business as usual. I've seen districts with all high school classes running remotely, while elementary and middle are onsite, etc.
Each plan will have its pros and cons, and each will reflect the needs and capabilities of its community. Like many districts throughout LI, NY and across the country, we'll most likely reopen in some form of hybrid plan that divides our students into two cohorts, currently referred to as the Blue and Green groups. There are a million details to work out between now and September, but in listening to members, participating in meetings, and reviewing guidance, it's most critical we anchor to the following goals and principles:
- Protecting teachers' rights to exercise professional judgment in determining how to deliver instruction, including whether or not they would like to use technologies such as streaming to meet the needs of remote learners.
- Balancing quality instruction with manageability for the people who have to make it happen.
- Balancing the importance of safety with the belief that students learn best when they are in school.
- Supporting students and staff for whom returning to school physically poses a serious health risk.
- Being sensitive to how the increased personal challenges of reopening, such as childcare, impact staff.
While working to achieve these goals, we also aim to be mindful of the potential long-term implications what we do to live, work and educate through this crisis don't have long-term consequences for our contract, our professions, or for the nature of school as we know it. We also do all this work and commit all these resources not knowing if we will open in September, or for how long we will stay open if we do. Easy, right?
As our plans start to materialize over the next week or two, it's really important not to lose sight of what matters. I have friends in other districts already counting seconds, comparing plans and cherry-picking what they like and don't like from each district. That type of behavior sets everyone up for failure. I truly believe the principles we've outlined above are the most critical, and we'll tenaciously to uphold them and deliver a plan that honors them.
That said, in addition to sharing my minutes for this week's meetings with you again, I'd like to expand on some of the above items in a little detail. The numbers below correspond to the principle/goal statements listed above....