TEWKSBURY — On July 27, leaders of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Massachusetts chapter, and the Boston Teachers Union signed a memorandum of understanding with Commissioner Jeff Riley of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to give teachers an extra 10 days before the 2020-2021 school year devoted to professional development for teaching during the pandemic.
Teachers across the commonwealth will be able to design classrooms to meet public health needs, learn about supporting children emotionally and academically throughout the process, and understand different health and safety issues.
MTA president Merrie Najimy wrote in a letter to members: “We need much more from DESE to ensure that our school buildings are safe when in-person learning becomes feasible.”
The memorandum outlines the changes to the traditional school year.
“The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff has been and continues to be our top priority as an educational community... DESE, MTA, AFT-MA, and BTU recognize and agree that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing additional time for our educators and staff to prepare prior to the start of instruction of students is important for a safe and successful fall reopening... DESE agrees that school districts will have 10 additional days at the start of the 2020-2021 school year before instruction of students begins, to work with educators to prepare for the new school year.
“The commissioner will reduce the 180-day and student learning time requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to 170-days and 850 hours (for elementary schools) and 935 hours (for secondary schools) so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than Sept. 16, 2020 requirement.
If a district is unable to meet the Sept. 16, 2020 requirement, it may apply for a waiver.”
The school year will now consist of 170 instructional days when students will be receiving instruction either in-person or remotely.
Josh Bilodeau, teacher and president of the Tewksbury Teachers Association, echoed the sentiments of the memo.
“The TTA thinks that an additional 10 days is a prudent decision to make. These 10 days can be used to help teachers prepare for the upcoming school year considering the major changes that everyone will likely face no matter the reentry model chosen. There are going to be significant challenges, and this extra time could al-low for additional teacher preparation and professional development on topics such as social and emotional learning, trauma-based training, remote and hybrid instructional strategies, and health and safety protocol training. If these 10 days are used effectively, they will result in a more thought out and positive experience for students.”
The Tewksbury School Committee, along with more than 100 Massachusetts school committees, recently passed a resolution calling on the state to provide adequate funding for safety protocols and personal protective equipment.
In May, the School Committee voted to make Aug. 31 the first day of school. The committee will now have to revote to set the new first day of school.