Massachusetts education officials want teachers in districts starting school year remote to instruct from cla – MassLive.com - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Massachusetts education officials want teachers in districts starting school year remote to instruct from cla – MassLive.com

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has said it expects teachers and critical support staff working in districts that are starting the new school year with a remote learning model to instruct from school buildings each day.

DESE, in guidance issued Friday evening, said the department believes having teachers and staff work from educational spaces will be beneficial, allowing students to remain familiar with a classroom environment, ensuring teachers have reliable internet access and making it easier for teachers to collaborate.

Additionally, DESE said having teachers in classrooms would allow administrators to provide better support for teachers, as well as allow administrators to monitor the level and amount of instruction students receive each day.

The guidance drew criticism online. Some questioned the safety of the decision, saying that if students are at home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, teachers should also stay home. Others argued that students learning remotely would only be able to see a whiteboard and not a full classroom.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association called the new guidance “paternalistic and punitive” and said it demonstrates a “fundamental lack of trust” in educators.

“While parents entrust the lives of their children to teachers and other staff, the commissioner’s guidance implies that educators are not capable of doing their jobs without being told how — and then supervised to make sure they follow orders,” MTA President Merrie Najimy wrote. “Let us not forget that millions of employees throughout the country — from Twitter to the State House to Riley’s own agency — have been working from home successfully throughout this crisis.”

Whether or not educators must teach from classrooms during online learning has been a contentious topic in several districts.

In Worcester, initially Worcester Public Schools said it expected teachers to report to school buildings for professional development days and the new school year, which drew criticism from the Educational Association of Worcester. The union asked why educators must be in buildings when students were being kept home for safety reasons.

But last week, the Worcester School Committee announced that educators would have the choice to teach from home. However, some staff, including secretaries, must be in school buildings to complete their job duties, officials have said.

This summer, teachers who have children in districts starting the year remotely have wondered what they would do to find childcare during the day if they need to be in a classroom.

Districts that are offering a hybrid learning model or full in-person learning should prioritize children of teachers for full-time, in-person when possible, DESE advised.

“I am also recommending that districts that are providing remote instruction allow teachers who are reporting to their schools to provide instruction to bring their own children to school with them for child care purposes, if feasible,” reads the guidance, signed by Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

DESE’s guidance also indicated that if a district is in a community that is considered high risk for coronavirus spread – shaded red on the state’s new color-coded case tracking map – the decision on whether to provide in-person education to students with the highest needs, including those with disabilities, English language learners and students who have not engaged with online learning in the spring, must be made at the local level.

“Solely receiving a red designation does not in any way automatically mean that all in-person services have to be discontinued,” the guidance reads. “In fact, DESE recommends that districts continue to provide as much in-person instruction as possible to vulnerable students using the key safety protocols outlined in our reopening guidance.”

Additionally, Friday’s guidance indicated that Riley is extending the deadline for school districts and charter schools to submit Student Opportunity Act plans. The new deadline is Jan. 15.

Boston, Worcester and Springfield are all starting the school year with remote learning. About 70% of districts in the state plan to begin the year with a hybrid or fully in-person learning model.

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