ACEA statement on re-opening school buildings
By now, most ACEA members and citizens of Allegany County are aware of the open letter issued by the Maryland State Education Association (ACEA’s state organization), the Baltimore Teachers’ Union, and the Maryland Parent Teacher Association. The full statement can be read at www.marylandeducators.org/press. MSEA, BTU and MPTA spoke with a unified voice on behalf of each state organization their intent to advocate for starting the school year completely online.
ACEA leadership echoes all the concerns laid out in the joint statement and concurs with the position MSEA has taken. As an organization, ACEA must advocate for our most at risk students and members. We believe that starting the school year in an online only format to start and moving gradually toward in person teaching and learning is the safest path forward. Washington County’s Board of Education voted unanimously to start the year exclusively online and we urge the Allegany County Board of Education to do the same.
As noted in the joint statement, the possibility exists in areas with relatively low infection rates to begin in person learning with targeted groups of students that would benefit the most from it. In person instruction with primary grade students in small groups would be one example of such a targeted approach. In person work with special education students who require intensive accommodations would be another. In person learning for these, or any other group, will require a clear and consistent protocol for handling directives related to masks, physical distance, and compliance with CDC and Health Department guidelines. These, among many other concerns, must be addressed before any in person instruction can happen safely.
ACEA appreciates the work that Allegany County Public Schools has already done to try and satisfy health and safety requirements, but there is clearly much more work that would have to happen before it can be considered safe to do any large scale in person instruction. Plans still need to be developed in anticipation of how infections in a school building would affect that school and the system, for example.
To be sure, our members have a range of opinions about re-opening and ACEA leadership has and will continue to weigh all the feedback we get. ACEA members should be and will be involved in whatever re-opening situation we find ourselves. Our members are experts and the ideal learning environment is one where our members are working with their students face to face. However, this is not an ideal situation.
To echo the joint statement, “A perfect solution does not exist. A safe one does.”
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