Support our Teachers: Help them Feel Safe Returning to the Classroom
Over the past six months this country has faced some of its darkest hours. And, at the same time, it has been uplifting to see this community rise up.
As the pandemic unfolded, Wellesley community members rose up. Facebook groups were formed for information sharing and support, community groups brought medicine and groceries to those who could not go out, and of course there was an outpouring of donations. Wellesley has also risen up in response to the killing of George Floyd and the continued violence against the Black community. We have seen marches organized by community groups, religious leaders, and young adults. Here too, we are seeing Facebook aid us as groups have been launched to acknowledge systemic racism and to take action.
While all this gives one hope, it has been equally disheartening to see the lack of compassion for our WPS teachers. Among some community members, there is a sentiment that teachers are being unreasonable or demanding as they ask that we ensure that schools are safe before opening for in-person education. Comments have even been made that if “they” don’t want to return to their jobs, we can find young teachers who are excited to teach.
We are here to assure that the requests WPS teachers are making are not unreasonable. Requests for quality ventilation systems, regular testing, and appropriate masks and shields are the same requests that college professors and private school teachers are making. Unfortunately, our public schools cannot respond as colleges and private schools have, as they do not have endowments to use nor can they demand that parents pay a COVID-19 tuition surcharge. The teachers need our voluntary help and financial support.
We are sure you all know someone who is a teacher — perhaps a family member or a good friend. You know teachers do what they do because it is a calling. It is a passion. It is certainly far more than a job. Trust us when we say that no one wants to get back into the classroom more than a teacher. Life doesn’t feel normal in September without new pencils, smart board markers, and the anticipation of starting again with a new group of students. Yet, teachers cannot do what they love — focusing on our children and their learning — if they don’t feel safe.
Without a testing program in place, our teachers don’t feel safe. We humbly ask that you help us to return to the classroom with an assurance of safety by offering your financial support for the proposed viral testing program. Without the support of the community, this program cannot happen. Please consider making a pledge in any amount that is meaningful to your family by visiting the Wellesley Education Foundation website.
Just as we have helped those among us who are most vulnerable in this pandemic, and we continue working to confront the racism in our country, we ask for your help in supporting our teachers so that they and our children can return to in-person education and feel safe doing so.
Dennis J. Ceru, Babson College
Annie Cohen, Wellesley College Child Study Center
Danna Greenberg, Babson College
Betsy Komjathy, Babson College
Jamie Ladge, Northeastern University
Theresa Levy, Country School, Weston, retired
Wendi McKenna, Upham Elementary School, Wellesley, retired
Margaret Petrovich, Needham, Sunita Williams School
Donna Stoddard, Babson College
Below are the signatures of 175+ WPS educators who have signed this letter in less than 24 hours (as of 8/31/20 in the morning). More names are being added as the letter circulates.
Elizabeth Abramson, Hardy Elementary School
Jessica Alter, Wellesley Middle School
Cailin Andruskevich, Hardy Elementary School
Darah Angelus, Hardy Elementary School
Taryn Arthurs, Schofield Elementary School
Lina Balta, Schofield Elementary School
Ellen Banthin, Sprague Elementary School
Sara Bartelloni, Upham Elementary School
Katie Bender, Wellesley High School
Caryn Berkowitz, Hardy Elementary School
Rebecca Blouwolf, Wellesley Middle School
Louisa Blumenthal, Sprague Elementary School
Julie Boehm, Wellesley High School
Sanford Bogage, Wellesley Middle School
Anne Bresnahan, Hardy Elementary School
Laura Brooks, Hunnewell Elementary School
Jayne Byrne, Sprague Elementary School
Rita Cameron, Bates Elementary School
Lisa Cannon, Hunnewell Elementary School
Julie Caparco, Wellesley Middle School
Kate Carrier, Hardy Elementary School
Kim Casalena, Sprague Elementary School
Dayna Chisholm, Schofield Elementary School
Ilyce Chizmadia, Wellesley Middle School
Melissa Clancy, Bates Elementary School
Jennine Clark, Wellesley Middle School/WPS AT specialist
Deb Cohen, Bates Elementary School
Farrah Compeau, Upham Elementary School
Katy Comstock, Bates Elementary School
Christina Cooney, Sprague Elementary School
Thomas Corcoran, Hardy Elementary School
Kenneth Craig, Sprague Elementary School
Trisha Czyryca, Hardy Elementary School
Kathleen Derian, Wellesley Middle School
Cecily D’Esopo, Hunnewell Elementary School
Kate Dienel, Sprague Elementary School
Meghan Dore, Wellesley High School
Taryn Drake, Sprague Elementary School
Lisa Driver, Wellesley Middle School
Bethaney Duncan, Upham Elementary School
Megan Dwyer, Hardy Elementary School
Amanda El-Lakkis, Schofield Elementary School
Robyn Ennis, Schofield Elementary School
Andrea Fay, Hardy Elementary School
Katie Feldman, Fiske Elementary School
Tracey Ferree, Schofield Elementary School
Kim Fleming, Schofield Elementary School
Jessica Forshner, Wellesley Middle School
Lauren Frazer, Wellesley Middle School
Jordan Freeman, Schofield Elementary School
Nicole Fyvie, Bates Elementary School
Robyn Gaines, Hardy Elementary School
Elizabeth Garry, Upham Elementary School
Anne Gayner, Fiske Elementary School
Derrick Genova, Wellesley High School
Nicole Giammarco, Hardy Elementary School
Paul Giancioppo, Wellesley High School
Stephanie Giancioppo, Wellesley High School
Alison Giorlando, Fiske Elementary School
David Goldsmith, Wellesley Middle School
Lisa Goodman, Hardy Elementary School
Ann Greenawalt, Wellesley Middle School
Louise Griffin, Bates Elementary School
Sharon Grossman, Fiske Elementary School
Paul Guzzi, Hardy Elementary School
Bevin Hale, Sprague Elementary School
Heather Haskell, Hunnewell Elementary School
Jill Heckman, Sprague Elementary School
Jacqui Hennessey, Fiske Elementary School
Moe Henzel, Sprague Elementary School
Heather Heon, Sprague Elementary School
Mindy Hoge, Wellesley High School
Jackie Hoglund, WPS Instructional Technology Specialist
Rebecca Hoitash, Upham Elementary School
Alyssa Holtzman, Fiske Elementary School
Lisa Humphrey, Upham Elementary School
Amy Hurwitz, Schofield Elementary School
Allison Hutchins, Hardy Elementary School
Erica Ilyin, Bates Elementary School
Franny Jacobson, Bates Elementary School
Sara Jauniskis, Sprague Elementary School
Julie Johnson, Hardy Elementary School
Kelley Joyce, Bates Elementary School
Meredith Kacavich, Bates Elementary School
Nina Kahn, Hardy Elementary School
Lynn Kaminski, Hunnewell Elementary School
Amy Kapinos, Bates Elementary School
J.J. Kelleher, Wellesley Middle School
Erin Kelley, Bates Elementary School
Laura Kelly, Bates Elementary School
Kristin Kelly, Hardy Elementary School
Laurie Kern, Schofield Elementary School
Sarah Kess-Uygungil, Hardy Elementary School
Peter Knapp, Hunnewel and Upham Elementary Schools
Michael Krieger, Wellesley High School
Katie Lai, Schofield Elementary School
Alyson Lajeunesse, Sprague Elementary School
Brienne Lemire, Hardy Elementary School
Renee Lilley, Hardy Elementary School
Karen Lindquist, Sprague Elementary School
Kristin Lueken, Schofield Elementary School
Jen Lundbohn, Sprague Elementary School
Susan Lydon, Schofield Elementary School
Kristen Lynch, Hardy Elementary School
Heather Macchi, Bates Elementary School
Kelsey Macklis, Schofield Elementary School
Jennifer MacPherson, WPS Elementary Math Dept.
Scott Marder, Sprague Elementary School
Erin Matranga, Hardy Elementary School
Patty McCarthy, Bates Elementary School
Donna McFarlane, Hunnewell Elementary School
Anna McGrath, Hunnewell Elementary School
Meaghan McKelvey, Wellesley Middle School
Amanda McKenney, Schofield Elementary School
Emma McMahon, Schofield Elementary School
Neysa Mcnamara, Hardy elementary school
Kyra McNaughton, Wellesley Middle School
Michele Mendoza, Fiske Elementary School
Katrina Mills, Upham Elementary School
Anthony Moretti, Schofield Elementary School
Julie Morris, Schofield Elementary School
Louisa Morrison, Wellesley High School
Kaitlyn Murray, Bates Elementary School
Kristen Nagle, Bates Elementary School
Leonie Nakayama, Schofield Elementary School
Kim Nicksa, Schofield Elementary School
Kati Okoshi, Sprague Elementary School
Ariane Oliver, Wellesley Middle School
Megan O’Reilly, Upham Elementary School
Ruth Ortiz, Schofield Elementary School
Kelly O’Sullivan, Fiske Elementary School
Susan Pasciscia, Schofield Elementary School
Emily Paterson, Schofield Elementary School
Vixen Peare, Sprague Elementary School
Lauren Pedroli, Hardy Elementary School
Karen Pekowitz, Hardy Elementary School
Elizabeth Perry, Bates Elementary School
Karen Poole, Hardy Elementary School
Suzanne Rabinovitz, Bates Elementary School
Jonathan Rabinowitz, Wellesley Middle School
Elizabeth Rey, Bates Elementary School
Susan Ridker, Wellesley Middle School
Jeffrey Robin, Wellesley High School
Alee Rogers, Sprague Elementary School
Pamela Rosenbloom, Bates Elementary School
Jillian Rubinstein, Upham Elementary School
Heather Sanborn, Schofield Elementary School
Kristin Scotland, Hardy Elementary School
Roxanne Scott, Hunnewell Elementary School
Ali Sganga, Upham Elementary School
Ilene Sharpe, Wellesley Middle School
Lisa Sheehan, Hardy Elementary School
Cassie Short, Wellesley Middle School
Jacey Shumaker, Upham Elementary School
Rachel Silver, Sprague Elementary School
Meghan Sjostedt, Hardy Elementary School
Beanie Spangler, Wellesley High School
Sarah Steinberg, Wellesley Middle School
Jody Steinhilber, Wellesley Middle School
Rachel Stewart, Schofield Elementary School
Marcia Sullivan, Hunnewell Elementary School
Catherine Sullivan, Schofield Elementary School
Liam Sullivan, Wellesley Middle School
Maya Swartz, Hardy Elementary School
Ashley Tarnauskas, Wellesley Middle School
Ellen Theriault, Bates Elementary School
Kristi Thompson, Hardy Elementary School
Sara Toppelberg, Bates Elementary School
Laurette Ullian, Hardy Elementary School
Kristen Walsh, Upham Elementary School
Patricia Weismer, Wellesley Middle School/WPS AT specialist
Liz Wheeler, WPS Teacher of Deaf and Hard Hearing
Suzanne Whitehouse, Upham Elementary School
Kim Willdridge, Schofield Elementary School
Sarah Williams, Bates Elementary School
Kate Wilson, Schofield Elementary School
Sarah Wong, Schofield Elementary School
Elisabeth Zimmer, Schofield Elementary School
More: Wellesley COVID-19 public school testing program fundraiser seeks to raise up to $3.5M
WHS parent says
Teachers should be able to work remotely if they feel unsafe in their workplace. Only the at-risk students should return to the school buildings. Everyone else should be remote until Spring.
How do you expect Kindergarteners to learn remotely?
matthew Santoro says
Teachers continue to move the bar for what they consider to be a safe environment for returning to the classroom. Do you know what other school districts are asking for a viral testing program??? No one! What other essential workers are be giving access to a viral test program?? None. You’re asking a community that has been unable to work on a regular schedule since March to now donate to an unnecessary test program. If the teachers union is so sure this is necessary for their well being they should be funding the program themselves.
WPS Parent says
Actually Newton teachers are pushing for the same program…
Most private schools are not implementing testing. Where are they getting this information?
Teachers have taken a 7 month vacation on our dime. Enough is enough. Now they are afraid of teaching in empty buildings?? Do the walls carry Covid??
They ask who will watch their kids. Maybe the same magical work force that has been watching the rest of our kids for the past 7 months. It seems none of them made any plans or arrangements because they were planning on a second surge having taken place by now and providing them with another year of paid vacation. Now they demand viral testing, another delay tactic while they wait for MA numbers to go up, and inevitably when the time comes to actually teach our children again, they will point to the increase in MA cases to demand more time off.
This has forever stained the reputation of teachers in the mind of the general public, and they have no one but themselves to blame. I hope no one ever asks me to donate to an end of the year gift or teachers appreciation luncheon again. We see now how much the teachers care about their jobs and our children.
Elementary Parent says
Assurances of safety? How about our levels are as low as can be, public health experts have deemed us able to reopen, and camps/activities/sports/dining/retail, etc are operating. Not to mention many schools around us began opening this week, without any sort of mass testing program. Is it because we live in a wealthy community that teachers think they can demand that parents pay $1.5m for extra-extra-extra assurances? I applaud the efforts of those organizing the testing program and think it would be wonderful, and I have pledged to contribute- but it should be an add-on, supplemental, exceptional bonus we can deliver, NOT a requirement to reopen. Public health experts, of which we in Mass. are blessed with the best of the best, have established standards alongside the governor’s office, and we’ve satisfied those. End stop. Our kids are suffering and those of us who send our kids to WPS are effectively ‘on hold’ while the rest of society has adjusted to the new normal, except teachers. The profession has changed. This is going to be the new normal for awhile, unfortunately, and those unprepared to return in these most favorable of unfavorable circumstances (again, in a situation where our levels are incredibly low and we’ve been given the green light by public health experts) should step aside. They act as if we’re throwing them into the lions’ den in asking them to return- when we are sending OUR CHILDREN to the same buildings, assured, again, by the public health experts and science and many protocols approved by the School Department. Protections for those with medical conditions are already in place, and I’m sure there are incredibly strict procedures in place in the event our numbers rise. Enough already. Trust the science and experts and please return to our children!
couldn’t agree more with…. “Teachers should be able to work remotely if they feel unsafe in their workplace. Only the at-risk students should return to the school buildings. Everyone else should be remote until Spring.”
WPS Parent says
I do support the proposed testing program for WPS teachers and students and encourage the community to financially support this program, to the extent they are able. Educators are an important part of the Wellesley community. I encourage all WPS teachers and school support staff and our local current and former educators to make voluntary pledges to this important cause, in any amount that is meaningful to them, in order to help our teachers feel safer returning to classroom.
I do not support the position that this testing program must be funded and implemented prior to a return to in-school teaching this fall. A community-funded testing program should not be a requirement for educators to return to in-person teaching in Wellesley. It should be viewed as a beneficial, additional, safety protocol to those that have already been put in place by the Town and approved by the Board of Health and an element that will help keep schools open on a regular basis by keeping potential COVID outbreaks isolated and manageable.
WPS teachers have asked for certain safety measures to help them feel safe returning to the classroom. I do not think that is unreasonable or demanding. To date, Wellesley has upgraded school ventilation systems, obtained sufficient PPE for educators, procured tents for outdoor learning, limited in-person learning in all schools to a number of students that allows for 6 feet of spacing between students in the classroom, issued a mask mandate for all staff and students, allowed for a half day of all-remote learning for all students on Wednesdays so educators have more time for planning and to adapt to the hybrid curriculum, shortened the school year to 170 days to allow for adequate training before the start of school, and pushed back the start of the school year to mid-September for remote learning and early October for in-person learning. All of this should make our educators feel safe and supported by the Wellesley community, whether or not a unique, one-of-a-kind testing program can be funded and implemented in the next 30 days.
It is disheartening as a member of the community to see what feel like continual, insurmountable roadblocks to getting our kids back to school in-person. The Mass Teachers Association has yet to support any school district in the state that has put forward a hybrid in-person learning approach for the fall term. Instead, it vocally supports each town’s union and the teachers’ refusal to enter schools for training or teaching and it supports threats to strike rather than teach in-person. The state has put out guidance that clarifies which towns should be returning to school in-person, in some capacity this fall. Wellesley is one of those towns. Comments have even been made on social media that parents who are in favor of in-person learning this fall are “looking for babysitters” for their kids. I can assure you, that is the last thing I want. I want the highly qualified educators to return to the classroom to teach our students in the only way they know how to teach and the only way our kids know how to learn – in person.
Many students will have challenges this year. Some will have safety concerns about returning to in-person learning. Some will have challenges in a hybrid learning structure. All have already lost months of learning, social engagement, and emotional connections that will be hard to make up for. The sooner educators start return-to-school training in the school buildings; learn and get comfortable with new safety protocols and raise reasonable concerns about them; reconnect with colleagues in-person (at a 6 foot distance, but in-person); collaborate on how to structure learning in the new hybrid world; support each other; brainstorm on how to best teach and support the students; and laugh and struggle and find creative ways to work through the bumps -the sooner we can get to the new normal of in-person teaching. Administrators, teachers, and support staff need their passion for working in education and be willing to work together for the students more than ever this year in order to teach and inspire students during these challenging times.
90% of WPS parents/guardians feel it is safe to send their students back to school in-person this fall. 90% of us trust the administrators, teachers and support staff to keep students safe in school with the protocols already put in place by WPS and based on the current Wellesley COVID statistics. I ask the teachers to trust the majority of their WPS community by returning to in-person education for all students, all grades, no later than the current October 1 date proposed by the WPS administration, with or without the funding and implementation of a testing program.
Wellesley Dad says
Couldn’t have said this better myself. This is a very well-written and thoughtful comment, and encapsulates everything our household is feeling (and I would imagine others are feeling, as well). Yet another concession by parents is disappointing, but I will certainly support it and do whatever it takes to get our kids back to school. I wish I felt that same urgency and problem-solving efforts from the WEA.
WPS Parent says
I would like to better understand which of the requests included in this letter are not being met by the school district and the community. This way we can address the legitimate safety concerns of our teachers so that they can get back into the classroom full time – developing our students and helping them safely learn. My understanding is that, as requested, the schools are being fitted with high quality filters on the HVAC systems, that the testing program is planned and current seeking full funding, and that PPE will be provided to the staff. If the testing program is fully funded, will that, along with the changes to the HVAC systems and the PPE, provide an environment where our teachers feel safe enough to return, not just in a hybrid model, but full time?
While the schools have not published (and likely cannot) the list of teachers taking a one year leave of absence, it is apparent which teachers are not returning this year based on the self-organized lists pulled together by families. In our school, I’ve noted that the four teachers who were at the school last year but have no student names listed with them for this year, all signed on to this letter.
As it stands right now, at least four classes at our school have no teachers. With school starting in a week, this creates further anxiety and uncertainty for our community’s families and puts the WPS Principals in a real pinch to find qualified educators on very short notice.
What additional steps can we implement to create an environment where our teachers feel safe enough to teach in the classroom with our children? I would love to see all our our great teachers back in the classroom this year.
WPS parent says
I admire your optimistic view of our teachers. However, the superintendent has said that teachers with childcare issues are being paid to take a year of leave also under the federal Covid guidelines. So, unfortunately the cynic in me thinks it likely that many of the teachers who are able to make this claim have done so. Nothing we as a community can do about that. No amount of PPE, HVAC, or distancing can change the fact that some teachers are using this as an opportunity to take a year off at our children’s expense.