Support for the Continuation of the Current Hybrid/Remote Model
As parents, guardians, and family and community members, we stand with the Milton School Committee, Superintendent Jette, and our educators in currently supporting continuation of the existing hybrid/remote model.
We want to acknowledge that:
1. Everyone is prioritizing their children’s and family’s needs during this less-than-ideal time. Parents are facing job-related stressors (whether they are working from home, working outside the home, or unable to work), attending to the academic needs of their children, and adapting to dramatic shifts in work-life balance. These unprecedented situations are putting us all under immense pressure. Navigating these challenges without breaking down our social fabric is necessary to the mental and physical health of our community, both now and in the future.
2. Equity is paramount to any return-to-school planning. Before changing any model, we need to assess the needs of our most at-risk youth and ensure that families with the most needs are getting their needs met. We do not support a plan that would perpetuate and possibly accelerate academic gaps between neighbors.
3. Teachers and staff should be a key part of planning any changes to the current model. Should the COVID-19 metrics improve, teachers and staff should be central to developing the plan to extend in-person learning hours.
4. Data describing in-school transmission, pediatric incidence, and long-term effects of COVID-19 are incomplete at best. Current rates of COVID-19 testing in our schools and community are inadequate to support extension of in-person learning hours. We need to continue to encourage the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to support our district with better testing and data. While there is a proposed BIDMC partnership, we need adequate DPH support for broadening testing availability throughout our town and neighboring towns. We need to continue to build partnerships and ask the DPH for adequate resources.
5. While we commend the Milton Public School (MPS) nurses for going above and beyond in their efforts to contact trace, it is not customarily part of their jobs. Additionally, their regular duties have become more intensified given the need for infection control. We want to continue to encourage DPH to provide staff and support to ensure efficient contact tracing.
6. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines are inconsistent. For example, the guidelines assert that three feet of separation is adequate, but defines a close contact as someone who has been within six feet of an infected person. For safety purposes, we agree that a minimum of six feet of separation is more appropriate. Reducing this distance would likely result in more quarantines and school closures. However, the community would benefit from having a clearer understanding of what is eliciting current quarantines and closures. In addition, DESE should be more forthright in its recommendations and policies .
7. The pandemic has created both an educational gap and a childcare gap. While these are probably inevitable to some extent, we encourage MPS and the School Committee to consider both problems, together and separately. As the pressures on essential workers grow in the coming weeks and months, developing more options for families who suffer from childcare gaps will be necessary. If we care about equity, supporting families in need through remote-learning centers and emergency care centers is of vital importance. We should be seeking community partnerships in this regard.
Given this context, we share a common concern that this is not the opportune time to increase in-person instruction. Community spread of COVID-19 in Milton has been on the rise, even in the absence of widespread community testing. We have only been “in the green” once since schools opened, and that was in the context of DPH dramatically increasing the number of cases required for a community to be “in the red.” Given that we expect the numbers to continue to increase, we support remaining in the current model. The Return to School Committee has already established that adherence to CDC and DESE guidelines for indoor dining is not possible given Milton’s high enrollment numbers, statewide educator and staff shortages, and physical space constraints. We acknowledge that there may be a time and way to open for more hours, and possibly even for meals; however, we do not think that now is the right time.
We feel confident in the sensible, science-informed model that was put in place after extensive planning with key stakeholders: school administration, health experts, parents, staff and teachers. Students have been given the opportunity to engage in daily teacher interaction, whether in-person or remotely. They have been provided a comprehensive learning experience comprising both core and enrichment classes. They continue to support the social and emotional needs of students through the curriculum, services, and regular communication. We are grateful for the remarkable efforts that MPS has put forth to support the educational needs of students while prioritizing safety during a global health crisis. We know it is not ideal, for students, parents, teachers, staff or administrators, but given the local and national context, we find the current plan appropriate.
Out of concern for the health of students, faculty, staff, and their families, we respectfully request that the current hybrid/remote model remain in place until the School Committee and Superintendent identify an appropriate time and process to expand in-person learning.
 Munro, Alasdair P.S, and Faust, Saul N. “COVID-19 in Children: Current Evidence and Key Questions.” Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases, vol. 33, no. 6, 2020, pp. 540–547.
 The proposed BIDMC partnership would include (effective immediately when the partnership is confirmed), approx. 10 tests/week for staff. There is a proposed expansion for symptomatic children for rapid antigen testing, however BIDMC is still awaiting their necessary testing equipment which is currently scheduled to arrive mid-December.
 https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/faq/ - the October 12th update includes definitions of what constitutes a contact who needs to isolate and quarantine.