WILMINGTON — More than 30 Wilmington residents called in or sent a statement to the School Committee meeting last Wednesday night with concern around the fall school reopening plan. Most of these residents were in favor of reopening with a remote start until it is safe for students to go back to school.
The first comment of the night supposed that if the School Committee is still meeting virtually, wouldn’t that be the safest option for staff and students in the fall. They also shared a quote from a superintendent from March: “In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be quite apparent if we underreacted or did too little.”
The next resident brought up the lack of data about kids as COVID-19 carriers or spreaders, possibly due to the fact that they’ve been kept home the most out of any group during this pandemic. She also urged for a remote start to fall learning until it’s safe to move to in-person.
One resident asked the committee to vote for remote learning tonight.
“I don’t feel as though sending kids to school is healthy or safe,” she said. “The focus should be on creating a robust remote learning program.”
Two Wilmington students joined the call after that to talk about how uncomfortable it will be for them and their fellow students in a 3rd floor classroom without air conditioning and asked how masks and social distancing will be enforced.
Several of the residents who spoke were both parents and teachers in the district. One of the district’s librarians mentioned working with a minimum of 430 students each week should school be in-person.
Another teacher and parent said, “Why is it that teachers are questioned on saying, ‘only when it is safe?’”
More than one resident showed concern for the poor building conditions and ventilation systems at several schools in town.
Another resident said, “If used to the fullest potential, remote learning can harness the strength of how each student learns.”
He suggested that teachers give out assignments where students have the freedom to choose their own challenge to solve using whatever platform or technology they prefer.
The next resident asked if kindergarteners are given the option for remote learning at all, as in the hybrid model they’re all going to school in person.
Jennifer Fidler, President of the Wilmington Teachers’ Association, referenced a letter the WTA sent to the committee explaining the need for a phased-in approach with remote learning until it’s safe enough to move to hybrid.
“Young children can be affected, and staff members are at risk.”
All of the teachers who spoke said something to the effect of how they want to be back in their classrooms but only when it’s safe.
In written statements, other residents brought up questions about what measures will be taken in terms of cleaning, ventilation improvements, heating, equitable learning, and mental health checks. One parent in particular wanted to know how the CARES program would be set up because their work schedule relies on it.
Parents seemed anxious to learn more about the plan and schedule for the elected remote learning option — IEPs — and what happens if and when transitioning from hybrid to remote becomes necessary.
The School Committee doesn’t respond to the public comment section, but School Committee Chair Jenn Bryson shared later in the meeting that she hopes that a lot of parents’ questions will be answered in the FAQ to be released on the school website.