As advocates for public education, we agree that the following criteria be must be in place to safely reopen schools before an effective vaccine is widely available:
1. Controlled community transmission: At least 14 days of zero reported new local community cases.
2. Rigorous testing and tracing: Widespread, accessible, and frequent screening, testing, tracing and isolation of new cases. Temperature checks are not an adequate indicator of infection. We need plans in place in the event that someone tests positive during the school day, including bus stops.
3. Thorough protection and prevention: Rigorous cleaning and disinfection, proper ventilation, effective PPE provided for all students and staff, and remote work and learning for the most vulnerable students and staff.
4. Appropriate social distancing: Student and staff ratios and schedules are designed to ensure small, stable groups with at least 6 feet between all people at all times. This includes during bus travel and must allow for a lowered student:teacher ratio for in-person learning.
5. Comprehensive student supports: All schools are staffed with at least one nurse or other health care provider per 750 students (1:225 for medically fragile students) and one counselor per 250 students, to train, teach, and implement public health protocols and trauma-informed practices.
6. Proactive school closures: Plans to close schools and implement equitable remote learning if there are increased cases in the local area, or a newly diagnosed case among staff, students, or their families.
7. COVID-19 has disproportionately infected and killed black and brown people at a rate much higher than white Americans. Our children deserve safe schools, that means not only safety from the possibility of contracting COVID-19, but safety from the violence of poverty and systemic racism that infects our communities. This means advocating for police-free schools, increased counseling services and trauma reduction training for all school staff.
8. Community Support: Commitment to create and support innovative ideas to make public schools more effective during this pandemic era and not magnify short-term profiteering solutions that undercut public education.
*New scientific research findings could potentially add to the above criteria
These criteria have not been met and do not look like they will be entirely met by the Fall. In which case we feel we must state:
Commitments for Parents:
- I pledge not to put my child’s health and safety at risk by sending them to in-person learning before the above criteria are met.
- I pledge to exercise my right to free speech to demand that local leaders take the necessary steps to keep students, teachers and their families safe.
Commitments for Teachers:
- If I consider my workplace to be unsafe and believe I am in imminent danger (and by extension placing others in harm’s way), I will be prepared to use my rights under OSHA Act of 1970 (SEC. 5) to not enter that workplace or remove myself from it.
- We believe a binding state agreement is necessary to protect our school communities, and we would be willing to vote in a future ballot for a state labor action and participate in that action if called upon to do so by our unions.