Wilmington Teachers Seek Safer, Phased-In Approach To Start The School Year

WILMINGTON, MA — Remote? In-person? A hybrid of the two? Students and parents are not the only ones wondering what school is going to look like in Wilmington this fall in response to COVID-19. Staff members have questions and concerns as well.

Wilmington Public Schools currently has 590 employees. An additional 60+ individuals work as school custodians with the Public Buildings Department, transportation drivers with North Reading Transportation, and contractors who serve Special Education students in district.

Many of the school district’s staff are members of the Wilmington Teachers Association (WTA), which is eagerly awaiting the school district’s proposed reopening plan. The district’s draft plan was submitted to the state last week. A final plan is due by August 10.

“In the absence of any guarantee by Dr. Brand and the Wilmington School Committee that the health and safety for all staff and students in every WPS building will be ensured with their proposed hybrid model, we must advocate for a remote option as the only safe means for educating Wilmington students during a pandemic,” WTA President Jennifer Fidler told Wilmington Apple. “WTA members want to return to our schools and to our students but not if that return is likely to result in anyone getting sick or dying.”

Fidler noted the WTA recently co-signed a letter with more than 30 other teachers unions from the Greater Boston and North of Boston area which advocates for districts to begin the school year remotely.

“We, as a collective body of Greater Boston educators, are recommending our districts return to learning in September with a gradual phased-in approach that is tied to public health and safety benchmarks,” begins the letter. “The safe return to learning in September must be guided by science–not by a school calendar. We are calling upon all public schools to begin the school year with a comprehensive distance-learning plan that has the potential to graduate to a hybrid learning model. The graduation from the distance learning phase to a hybrid phase must be defined within each local district using public health benchmarks, a thorough evaluation of the buildings to ensure they are safe places for learning, and investment to make necessary improvements.”

“Faced with a pandemic that is actively spreading to children, teens, and adults, we know that it is not safe to return to in-person learning,” continues the letter.“As educators, we cannot risk a premature return to in-person learning that will result in educators, students, or their families getting sick and dying. In order to protect the health and safety of our communities, we must direct our energy at the development of high-quality distance learning. It is imperative for educators to be involved in the decision-making process at both the local and state level.”

“As educators, we are advocating for a return to in-person learning that is guided by science, educational best practice, and the health and safety of our students and educators,” reads the letter. “The stakes have never been higher. Not one single person should get sick or die because we opened our doors prematurely. The only acceptable death count is zero.”

Read the full letter HERE.

(Editor’s Note: The headline to this article — originally “ONLY WHEN IT’S SAFE: Wilmington Teachers Association Wants To Begin School Year Remotely” — was changed to better reflect the WTA’s position.) 

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