Amherst-Pelham union wants limited return to in-person learning

  • Amherst Regional High School GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2021 12:34:46 PM

AMHERST — Intensive needs students and preschoolers in Amherst and Pelham are being prioritized for returning to in-person instruction at school buildings by the Amherst Pelham Education Association.

As the executive board for the union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff continues to meet with the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, potentially to discuss adjustments to a memorandum of agreement that sets COVID-19 health metrics for when students and teachers can be in school buildings, the union on Monday issued a statement that its representative council “voted unanimously to explore a limited return to in-person learning.”

The union’s representative council also approved what are known as side letters offering the possibility of allowing staff to volunteer to work with these specific, high-needs populations in-person.

School Committee Chairwoman Allison McDonald said these side letters to enable limited in-person education were to be discussed by her committee in executive session Tuesday.

A joint meeting of the Amherst, Pelham, and Regional committees in open session, also Tuesday evening, was to discuss planning for in-person learning for the spring semester.

But the representative council reviewed a survey of union members done in late December and reported that a widespread return to in-person learning was unlikely: “Based on the information from this survey, they do not have a mandate from their membership to reopen negotiations.” 

The union statement, though, does not close the door on adjusting aspects of the memorandum of agreement: “APEA would like to explore possible next steps to safely meet the needs of other learners for whom remote instruction is not working.”

APEA Vice President Karin Baker said that after holding an initial meeting last week with the school committee, two more joint meetings are already scheduled.

At the representative council meeting on Monday, the union also urged the school district to take advantage of Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed pooled COVID-19 testing for schools.

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


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