Amherst, Pelham teachers, staff clarify where they stand on reopening plans

  • Children board buses at Wildwood School in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2020 3:14:32 PM
Modified: 9/11/2020 3:14:16 PM

AMHERST — The union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff in the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional public schools is countering what it argues is misinformation in the community about remote instruction this fall, as well as about getting students and staff back into school buildings.

With negotiations among the Amherst-Pelham Education Association, school administrators and the school committees continuing this week, the union released a statement Thursday expressing optimism about where these talks stand and highlighting its focus on health and safety protections for the community.

“We are striving for a collaborative solution that draws on the many resources of our district, and we are grateful for the work of each and every person who is fighting for a safe and equitable return to learning,” the statement reads.

But the union is also worried about misunderstanding of what education will look like when students begin classes remotely next week.

First, the union is promising that the instruction process will be better than what was experienced between the March closing of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the school year in June.

“Educators spent countless unpaid hours over the summer developing ways to refine and improve remote learning,” according to the union.

Second, the union notes that it has already tentatively accepted a phase-in model for classroom instruction that would begin Oct. 1 and continue adding more students throughout the fall semester, if health metrics allow this to happen.

“Our focus is and always has been sending our children and staff into the safest possible buildings,” the statement reads.

The union has also offered what it calls a full hybrid phased-in by grade level groups model under its “Safe Return to Learning” plan that would delay some in-person instruction into the new year.

The union notes that it would prefer to have more information about negotiations released, but the preference by the administration is to not negotiate publicly.

School Committee member Peter Demling said at a meeting this week that the public is wondering whether any small or large agreements are in place that can be shared.

“There’s not only a high level of anxiety, but there’s preparations that parents need to make that depend on these decisions,” Demling said.

“We are making progress in our negotiations,” Superintendent Michael Morris responded, adding that there is mutual interest in coming to a resolution soon.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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