Amherst school officials urge educators to get on board with reopening plans

  • Nora DeJasu, a support specialist at Bridge Street School in Northampton, stands with other teachers from all over the district lining Route 5 on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, as part of an Educators Day of Action titled #OnlyWhenItsSafe. “It's an equity issue,” said DeJasu. “Everyone in the state deserves to be treated fairly and with 70% of the districts returning to either full, in person, or a hybrid model, it puts the most vulnerable at risk.” Members of teachers unions from across the region participated in the event that extended from Greenfield to West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nora DeJasu, a support specialist at Bridge Street School in Northampton, stands with other teachers from all over the district lining Route 5 on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, as part of an Educators Day of Action titled #OnlyWhenItsSafe. “It's an equity issue,” DeJasu said. “Everyone in the state deserves to be treated fairly and with 70% of the districts returning to either full, in person, or a hybrid model it puts the most vulnerable at risk.” Members of teachers unions from across the region participated in the event that extended from Greenfield to West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paula Rigano-Murray, a paraeducator at Northampton High School, stands with other teachers from the district and other towns lining Route 5 on Wednesday as part of an Educators Day of Action titled #OnlyWhenItsSafe. Members of teachers unions from across the region participated in the event, which extended from Greenfield to West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2020 6:19:32 PM
Modified: 8/19/2020 6:19:22 PM

AMHERST — School officials are continuing discussions with teachers and paraeducators over a phased-in reopening plan for the Amherst public schools.

With less than a month before the Sept. 16 start of school, and after bargaining in executive session Tuesday, the Amherst Regional School Committee voted unanimously to issue a statement calling on the Amherst Pelham Education Association to “shift their energies to working with the district to implement this plan.”

“We can’t keep our kids out of school until the risk of COVID-19 is eliminated,” the statement reads. “We have a moral obligation to provide the option of in-person education to students.”

The union, whose members were in Northampton on Wednesday morning with representatives from several similar organizations staging rallies along the Route 5 corridor, has unveiled what it is calling a “Safe Return to Learning” proposal. This learning model includes three components, starting with a 100% distance learning model, a transitional hybrid model, and a full re-entry to buildings. A move toward or away from each model would be dictated by health metrics.

Enhanced remote learning for all students would begin Oct. 28 at the earliest, and a full hybrid model phased in by grade level groups would begin Feb. 1 at the earliest, both only if public health benchmarks and bargaining conditions are continuously met. Full in-person classes occur only once a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is administered to 100% of students and staff.

Danielle Seltzer, president of the union, said in an email that more remote learning is a possible consequence of putting increased safety measures in place. Seltzer points to the need to do this after the experience in Athol, where four positive COVID-19 cases, including three food service workers and a teacher, have been identified at Athol Community Elementary School.

The full statement from the school committee is available at drive.google.com/file/d/1gurRqU7pKiyhdrm9HZY4DkAEWwA3GobA/view.




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