Jennifer Ruggieri and Jeff Hobbs: Urge emphasis on distance learning

  • This April 9, photo released by Kara Illig, shows her daughter on her computer in Ebensburg, Pa.  AP

Published: 8/4/2020 3:41:30 PM

As parents of a seventh grader at JFK Middle School, we wanted to share our concerns regarding plans to open schools for in-person learning, partially or completely, as long as the COVID pandemic remains uncontained.

Given the circumstances, we submit: 1. Only the four core subjects are critical in the middle of a pandemic. As a community, sadly, we are not in a position to be choosey. We have precious resources that need protection and we do not have the institutional framework for a full day of remote learning. An abbreviated school day will allow focus on the most critical academics and alleviate some of the burden.

2. Every effort should be made that no educator or support staff member should be punished for being sidelined during a pandemic through lack of salary. Decisions in the epidemic are not optimal — it is, after all, a pandemic — but we will want to be in the best possible position to return to normalcy when we are able, and we do not want to lose valued staff, their community knowledge, or their expertise through attrition.

Summer escalation of cases in southern U.S. states suggests that in addition to localized noncompliance with CDC guidelines, air conditioning has contributed to regional viral spread. Recent data suggests aerosolized virus as a factor in increased contagion, and we are uncomfortable with children and staff in a school setting — particularly as the weather cools and buildings are closed to maintain heating levels.

Whether through a hybrid model or through an abandoned school mid-fall reopening, the likelihood of redundant spending and further exhaustion of both the schools’ budgets and the emotional reserves of teachers, staff, parents, and students is a serious concern.

Because of the likelihood of a rise in COVID cases in Massachusetts as the school year gets underway, we strongly urge school administrators to focus instead on the elements of distance learning: improved training, support for working parents and teacher resources for remote teaching.

Jennifer Ruggieri
Jeff Hobbs

West Hatfield




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