Teachers want schools to reopen – but only if and when it’s safe to do so.
In the recent RTA survey on reopening schools, the overwhelming majority of teachers strongly advocated for additional social/emotional support for students and made the safety of students and teachers a clear priority: social distancing, facial masks, cleaning and disinfecting, availability of personal protective equipment, adhering to Department of Health requirements and protocols. Most respondents preferred a hybrid model over continuing teaching and learning remotely only. Understandably, there was little support for reopening fully as before the pandemic. Additionally, teachers offered thousands of valuable comments, questions and suggestions. Below is a summary of the survey responses, except for two open-ended questions(“What additional and special concerns do you have about teaching remotely in your specific discipline, grade or subject area? “and “What additional questions or concerns should be addressed that have not been raised in this survey?”) that do not lend themselves to summarizing but will also be included in our advocacy on your behalf.
Informed by the collective wisdom of teachers, and our own research, we are working with the District to ensure that schools are as safe as possible if and when they reopen. We have already notified the District that departures from our collective bargaining agreement, if any, must first be negotiated with us. We are also reserving the right to negotiate the impact on the terms and conditions of our members’ work arising from any changes that remain management prerogative. While these negotiations are ongoing, and until we successfully conclude bargaining in the next several weeks, both parties have agreed to embargo the details and specifics being negotiated. In addition to engaging in contract negotiations with us, Superintendent Myers-Small invited all unions representing RCSD employees to participate in reviewing the District’s reopening strategies and the plan that must be submitted to the New York State Education Department by the end of this month.
Needless to say, we are taking very seriously the issues under consideration. Your safety, and the safety of our students, is paramount to us. Teachers with compromising health conditions, or with family members who have such health issues, feel particularly vulnerable and we will seek to negotiate reasonable options for them. And virtually all teachers have legitimate questions and concerns that we are advancing in our discussions and negotiations with the District.
Reopening schools safely will be a daunting challenge and will require more money, not less. That is why we are also joining with our national and state affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), in lobbying for needed additional Federal funding to the states and for education. If you haven’t already done so, please click on this link <https://t.co/rylpo6oJw4?amp=1> and sign the petition urging our elected political leaders to join in that critically important effort.
I hope that you are having a safe and fun summer recess. We will keep you informed about the progress of our efforts and developments related to the reopening of our schools. Thank you for your patience and for your continued support of your union.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President