AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION ON THE VALUE OF IN-PERSON LEARNING — AND ON HOW WE CAN MAKE IT SAFE TO REOPEN OUR SCHOOLS
Together, we can create the Prince George’s County Public School first-ever COVID-19 Safety Agreement to help students and staff safely return to in-person learning
The Prince George’s County Educators Association includes more than 10,000 teachers, school counselors, speech pathologists, media specialists, and other non-supervisory certified educators in the Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) system. These educators want to reopen schools safely.
PGCEA compliments the CEO and Board of Education for the progress we made on key safety issues including:
- Leading the State on decisive action to keep virtual learning in place during the pandemic.
- Closely communicating with families, educators, and the community with transparency.
- Not being moved by political posturing and staying focused on the science.
While we are pleased that the CEO and Board of Education has acted in such a caring and constructive manner, there is work to be done to ensure that all of our buildings are operationally safe for reopening; thus, there should be implemented and maintained safety standards.
As educators, we honor and value the importance of in-person learning. There is no substitute for in-person learning and the educational enrichment that flows from learning in a classroom.
February 8, 2021
Everything we do as an organization and as educators is centered on providing our students with the best learning experience possible.
Our advocacy on funding, staffing, and standards are all deeply rooted in a mission to create the schools and the learning experiences that our students deserve.
We believe our students deserve in-person learning. We believe that learning must be safe, and buildings must be reopened in a manner that not only protects the health and lives of our students – but also that of their families.
Amid a pandemic that has taken nearly a half million lives in this country, including those of our loved ones, our neighbors, and our fellow educators, we believe that it will take all stakeholders working together to establish safety standards for our school that are equitable, enforceable, and driven by science.
We must also memorialize the progress we make in a manner that ensures equity across the district through a written set of safety standards that are implemented uniformly in all buildings. Achieving a healthy environment in our buildings is possible. We must not relent in the pursuit of this goal and we must ensure common standards so that each building, each child, and each family is able to rejoin in-person learning in the healthiest and safest way possible.
No child — nor staff member — should endure the severe illness or death of a loved one because of a failure to plan or to codify standards that meet the moment.
To ensure accountability, follow-through, and uniformity in the rollout and maintenance of these standards, PGCEA will be furnishing a safety agreement to the system, that prioritizes safe, in-person learning, especially for our highest-needs students, and reflects family input.
We look forward to crafting this document with the input of our community, our families, our students, and of the district itself.
Below are key areas not yet addressed by the district’s approach:
- Investment in safety equipment and facilities upgrades. Specifically, adequate air filtration systems in every room where there are students and/or educators.
- Investment in COVID-19 testing, tracing, and vaccination, with vaccinations phased in and aligned with those being asked to go back in buildings.
- Investment to improve distance learning and implement hybrid models.
- Meaningfully involve parents, students, community members, and workers in all aspects of reopening.
- Incorporate the MSEA Checklist as a key metric used by COVID Compliance Committees in every school.
- Involving PGCEA Unit 1 selected leaders in the composition of each building level committee.
- Including PGCEA appointed representatives in any district level Reopening Task Forces.
- Provide PPE to all staff and students.
- ADA Accommodations for all eligible staff.
- Hazard pay and adequate staff to prepare for a safe return.
- Clear plans, protocols, and communication when there are COVID-19 outbreaks at schools.
- Reasonable self-directed time for educators to transition from Distance Learning to in-person and hybrid models of instruction- that include workload parameters.
- Clear delineation of responsibilities between bargaining units and positions.
- PGCPS leadership team and labor leaders meeting weekly to discuss safety plans.
PGCEA wants to thank our colleagues within district management for their supportive approach throughout the pandemic. As we prepare for the return to in-person learning, now is the time for that support to be codified in the form of a safety agreement that prioritizes in-person learning, public health, and that upholds the value of human life.
The Association looks forward to working with you and all stakeholders in creating this document and to operationalizing its standards for the benefit of every resident in this county — and beyond.
Theresa M. Dudley