Teachers’ union: Remote learning provides safest and most equitable option

The members of the Berkshire Hills Education Association stand in full support of our members, students, and families, in a phased-in remote learning plan.

To the editor:

Educators in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District are deeply committed to providing a quality education to our students. We also care about the safety and well-being of our students and our entire school community.

We recognize the challenges faced by all of our families as we journey together through this pandemic. We have been through much together, but are far from the finish line.

Many people within BHRSD have been working collaboratively and thoughtfully to address the complex health and safety concerns for all of the possible reopening scenarios. We fully appreciate all of their work.

In spite of these best efforts, we believe there is simply no way to guarantee the safety of students, teachers, parents, grandparents at this time. Many facets of our communities are not yet fully open because of the same health and safety concerns.

Educators, more than anyone, want to be able to work with students in person, but we are not comfortable with being asked to put our health, possibly even our lives, as well as the health and safety of our family members at risk, for the sake of in-person learning. We feel strongly that it is too soon to return to schools for in-person learning and teaching.

Although any hybrid model currently being discussed would provide for more social distancing, there are many other logistical considerations within our school buildings and routines that it does not address or resolve. We believe that a return to in-person learning at this time is, in essence, a request for us to become essential, front-line workers. We simply believe that it is too soon to return to the buildings and believe that remote learning is the much safer alternative.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, our country’s foremost infectious disease expert, recently remarked that educators would be part of the “experiment on what happens when schools are reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We now know that children over the age of 9 transmit the virus as easily as adults. We know that both children and adults can be asymptomatic carriers. In a recent survey of Berkshire Hills Education Association (BHEA) members, 83 percent expressed serious concerns about health and safety of in-person return. Seventy-four percent expressed serious concerns about all school community members, from teachers to students to family members, being able to abide by the safety measures required for in-person teaching, including within the hybrid model.

All it will take is one case to cause irreparable harm to our school community. How would we recover from that event? It is the position of the BHEA, as well as that of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), that remote learning provides a safe and equitable option for providing an education to our students, without putting our members’ health at significant risk.

The members of the Berkshire Hills Education Association stand in full support of our members, students, and families, in a phased-in remote learning plan as we open the 2020-21 school year.

Sincerely, on behalf of BHEA membership,

BHEA Executive Committee members:

Donna Astion, Helen Eline, co-presidents

Laura Passetto Unit C president

Glen Chamberlin

Dan Bouvier

Chrissie Lucy

Amy Salinetti

Elizabeth Sparks

Jake Pinkston

Kathleen Gillis