Dear Members, what happened to summer? Personally this entire summer has just been a blur. I can't believe that we are at the point where I would be sending out a welcome back letter saying "I can't wait to see you at the General Membership Meeting in the auditorium at the High School at 7am on September 1st."
Well....guess what? We will not have large group meetings like that, so I begin by saying we are doing things differently this year. (Stay tuned for more information on how we will connect to have our General Membership meeting.) Almost everything that will be happening in the 2020-2021 school year will be 'different'. As much as the push to open schools in person is based around trying to get things back to 'normal' for everyone, we all know that full openings, hybrid openings, and remote openings will be anything but normal.
Safety is the number one concern and that is what we have been pushing for in every meeting and discussion of protocol. I did survey you all again this week about your level of comfort and the results varied (see chart below). I want to acknowledge that everyone is not in the same place about reopening. As of today when I am writing this message our district is still scheduled to open in the model that is posted. Schools under these plans don't resemble anything like what we are used to and is creating varying levels of anxiety. Students K-7 will basically be in lockdown most of the day, the plan in grades 8-12 with alternating days is still a high level of exposure for both students and staff.
I know some can't help but feel that even though NY is below 1% transmission rate, we will have COVID-19 in our schools within the first month. I honestly hope I am very wrong and that not one person will become ill. Like most districts on LI, we are trying our best in planning, but we are in the situation where things that should have been improved upon in education years ago are now issues. The continual underfunding of education, even now when we are being asked to be frontline workers and help save the economy, is unbelievable. Now more than ever it's essential that federal funds reach communities in need. Districts are being asked to improve ventilation, purchase PPE, trace and track infections, provide additional SEL training and more while actually facing a possible 20% cut in state aid. All of that then trickles down to us as educators having to make adjustments, deal with an increase in directives, and a heavier workload. All the while hearing our neighbors and community members refer to us as cowardly and selfish for attempting to advocate for our safety. In regards to reopening safety I want you to know that the FFT executive board did send a letter to the Superintendent and the Board of Education president outlining ten very important points. We will continue to get these points clarified and answered and encourage you as parents in your districts to do the same These were points that were worked on as NYSUT local regional priorities here in our region. Emphasis being on if they are not possible they should consider a different opening strategy. I have attached that letter for your review. I've also attached here a link for you to contact a legislator to advocate for the HEROES Act.
Many of us can do our best at a hard job because we hope that the students' grow in knowledge, we see joy in their faces and they give us energy to get us through. This year will be hard regardless of how it proceeds because we are going to all be working on how to make connections and interact with each other under unique pressures. We will all be digging deep and we will be tested and challenged more than we ever had to be flexible. Remember to do everything you can to manage the stress. Please don't push yourself beyond your limits. It's in the nature of most teachers' personalities, and sometimes our natural instincts to try to keep routines and order. We are still living in what is truly a disordered, uncontrolled, and unknown situation. Everything won't be easy, everything won't be organized, but remember that in this survival mode situation to prioritize your mental health if you want to be of some help to those around you. I hope to see you in person soon and as usual please know you can reach out to your union reps and we will help advocate for you as best as we can.