Safe Schools, Safe Communities, Safe Start to the School Year
We as parents, educators, and community members agree that our students must return to a learning environment that prioritizes the health of students and school staff and is grounded in Anti-Racism for all of our students. Our communities are facing a surging health crisis, as COVID rates have continued to rise. We cannot put our students, families, or school staff at risk. The safest start to the school year is continuing distance learning.
We must meet the following public health and school safety conditions before bringing our school communities back together in person:
*See a clear description of each item below.
- Compliance with public health standards at all sites. No short cuts on making sure our students and staff are safe.
- Prioritize space for students.
- Hire more essential staff to meet student needs.
- Invest in capital projects to make our school buildings healthier environments for students and staff.
- Provide economic and health supports for families, schools, and communities.
- Re-frame education through healing-centered, culturally responsive, anti-racist, and non-criminalizing approaches.
- Ensure equity for all diverse learners.
- Districts participate in community-based policy making.
- Implement culturally relevant curriculum that is trauma-informed and healing-centered.
- Immediate cessation of high-stakes standardized testing.
Our Public Schools belong to all. They are the heart of our communities, they are the measure of a high functioning society, and they must welcome and nurture us all. Reopening our schools must be grounded in robust Anti-Racism and equity in order for that to happen. It is our duty as citizens to use this moment in history to rebuild our schools as the empowering and liberating learning spaces that our students deserve. To do so, it is necessary to make the historically consistent impact of one’s zip code on opportunity, a reality no more.
We reject the narrative of scarcity as an excuse to not deliver on these demands. We are a country, state, and city of abundance. We must find the political will to require those corporations and citizens who have profited a great deal on the backs of our communities to contribute fairly to these expenses, not through philanthropy, but through shared responsibility and equitable taxation.
As Governor, we demand that you put safety first when issuing orders for the start of the school year and we urge you to make decisions grounded in robust Anti-Racism, equity, and science.
*Description of Requirements for Safe Schools
- Compliance with public health standards at all sites. No short cuts on making sure our students and staff are safe.: Universal testing, extensive contact tracing, and social distancing must be achieved throughout the region and in schools before students and teachers should return to school buildings.
- The number of new COVID-19 cases in the community must be in decline for at least 14 consecutive days.
- The COVID-19 Contact Questionnaire shall be mandated for every person entering and exiting the building each day. Individuals who answer “Yes” to any question will not be able to enter sites until they have self-quarantined for a period of 14 days and have tested negative for COVID-19.
- Temperature Screenings: Each person shall have their temperatures checked with a no touch thermometer upon entering the bus or school site each day.
- Anyone attempting to enter a site with positive high temperature check, which is 100.4 degrees or higher per CDC guidelines, shall be immediately tested for COVID-19 and shall be isolated until they can return home.
- In the event anyone who has entered or worked at a site tests positive for COVID-19, the affected site shall immediately close until everyone at the affected site is tested for COVID-19 (at no cost to persons tested). The site must be disinfected and remain closed for 14 days. Faculty, staff, and students may return after 14 days upon completion of a negative COVID-19 test.
- The District must notify the entire population of the affected site within 24 hours if and when there is a positive test result.
- FREE COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty, staff, volunteers, substitute teachers, and their family members (regardless of symptomatic or asymptomatic status) and, if necessary, FREE COVID-19 treatment; moreover, district employees shall receive worker’s compensation coverage and benefits if diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Basic non-toxic sanitary supplies such as soap, soap dispensers, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, sanitary napkins, and toilet paper must be provided in all schools.
- Personal Protective Equipment for airborne illness must be regularly provided to all students and school-based staff. This includes masks, face shields, Plexiglass shields, gloves, and other equipment necessary to keep all students and staff safe.
- Prioritize Space for Students: Prioritize space for student use and ensure that social workers, counselors and other Specialized Instructional Support Professionals have spaces that are appropriate for working with and serving our students and families.
- Hire More Essential Staff: Reroute non-essential funding to increase nurses, social workers, counselors, school psychologists, and all other student-facing staff.
- Safe Teacher/Student ratios of (1:10) and Safe Teacher/ Education Support Professional/Student ratios (1:1:9) in every classroom that are appropriate to the learning experience in all public schools and conform to social distance requirements per CDC guidelines.
- Additional staff members, such as interpreters for hearing impaired/deaf students, along with resources for our exceptional-needs student population will be provided to ensure equitable learning experiences for all students.
- Provision of adequate and equitable materials (e.g., textbooks, devices, technology [computers, free universal access to high-speed internet, and all programs needed for educational purposes]) is necessary.
- Invest in capital projects to make our school buildings healthier environments for students and staff. Institute major improvements to school buildings and equipment, including HVAC upgrades to improve ventilation, lighting, and water piping.
- Provide economic and health supports for families, schools, and communities. Our Public Schools do not exist in a vacuum. We cannot create the schools our children deserve if we do not invest in our communities at the same time. We must recognize and respond to the challenges our students have been facing in their communities. Families have been faced with evictions, homelessness, limited or no access to medical and wellness care, limited or no support for children and family members with special needs, and other real-time needs that cannot be ignored or neglected. To address this, we must boldly invest in the communities in which students live by sufficiently funding and guaranteeing:
- Stable Housing
- Food Stability
- Health Care
- Mental Health Supports
- Free Child Care
- Universal Pre-K
- Re-frame education through Healing-Centered, Culturally Responsive, Anti-Racist, and Non-Criminalizing Approaches: Prioritize health, healing, and community-building whenever schools reopen. We choose to re-frame education with a vision for healing-centered, empowering learning, as we reject the narrative of students having to “catch up.” Education should center the co-creation of flexible, responsive and adaptive learning experiences alongside families. Our schools should be places where everyone can thrive and self-actualize.
Equity for all Diverse Learners: Ensure hygiene and physical distancing measures are accessible for all people who come into our schools and learning spaces. Support learners who may struggle with returning to school, ensuring they have what they need to get through the day. This includes students who are adult learners or who experience high mobility, chemical dependency, mental health issues, incarceration or other challenges outside of their learning environment.
Community-Based Policy Making: Provide multiple, varied, and ongoing opportunities for authentic partnering of staff, students, families and community members in all district policy-making decisions and school-based physical and social-emotional health monitoring.
Culturally Relevant Curriculum that is Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered: Create multiple, varied, and ongoing opportunities for authentic input and feedback to more effectively meet the needs of students, educators, administrators, and school communities for each public school.
Immediate cessation of high-stakes standardized testing. End the use of standardized tests that do not accurately assess student learning, growth, or achievement. Standardized testing perpetuates systemic racism, and continues to traumatize and stigmatize students and families, particularly those who are Black, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ+, differently abled, and living low-income households. Standardized testing also contributes to the distorted and immoral narratives concerning “good schools” vs. “bad schools” that continue to racially and economically segregate students.
From: [Your Name]
Please put safety first when issuing orders for the start of the school year. I urge you to make decisions grounded in robust Anti-Racism, equity, and science. Our students should continue distance learning until the number of new COVID-19 cases in the community is in decline for at least 14 consecutive days, and the above the public health criteria are met.