Yesterday we asked RTA Faculty Representatives to provide us information about the conditions at our schools during the initial days of return to in-person learning while the District was unprepared to keep students and teachers safe. Many have responded already. And while we know that much more information is yet forthcoming, we have begun addressing with the District the issues already named: high rate of student and staff absenteeism; lack of substitutes and the resulting increased demands on teachers; inadequate COVID testing for students; widespread non-compliance of facial mask-wearing; lack of proper cleaning and disinfecting; inappropriate requests from administrators at some schools that teachers assume responsibility for virtual teaching; lack of proper accommodation for students’ consumption of food; overall negative impact on conditions for teaching and learning; and danger to the health and safety of students and staff.

All this is further proof that the District’s current “plan” is, indeed, woefully lacking. We relayed teachers’ concerns to the District today and scheduled future meetings to press the District to act and address the many concerns that teachers have. Meanwhile, you will soon receive an invitation from your elected RTA Department Chairperson to participate in a zoom meeting to elicit your ideas and suggestions not only for the upcoming contract negotiations but also for addressing our current predicament – including, if necessary, taking collective action. I urge you to join these conversations so that we could benefit from the collective wisdom of teachers.

Finally, it appears that the Board of Education may have no choice but to reconsider the District’s ill-advised decision to continue in-person learning while unprepared to ensure safety and proper protocols/logistics. At this evening’s public meeting, they cited the spiking absences of students and staff, transportation problems, and other concerns that teachers have also raised. While no final determination was made at tonight’s Board meeting, we should know their decision within the next few days.

We will continue to keep you informed. Meanwhile, stay safe and thank you for your solidarity and for all that you continue to do for our students even under these trying circumstances.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President