Assembly and Concert at Wildwood Elementary School. Photo: Toni Cunningham

On Wednesday, June 3rd, the Amherst, Pelham and Regional School Committees will hold the first joint meeting to begin planning for the reopening of schools in the fall. The meeting will be shown via live-stream here and on Amherst Media (Channel 15), beginning at 6:30 PM. Instructions on how to submit public comments are included on the agenda.

At a recent Amherst School Committee meeting, Superintendent Morris outlined the dilemma facing the districts of how to safely bring students back into the schools. Guidance from the CDC includes spacing seating at least 6 feet apart, which would allow for far fewer students in each classroom. With limited building space, teaching staff, and funding, this creates significant hurdles. 

South Korea recently reopened their schools with many new measures in place intended to limit virus transmission. High School seniors returned first, followed by a second phase that included high school juniors, middle school seniors and elementary grades 1 and 2, in addition to kindergarten. They alternated school days for different grades, with online instruction at home on the days they weren’t attending classes. Class times and lunch hours were staggered and no extracurricular activities were allowed. However, almost immediately new cases of COVID-19 were reported among several teachers and students and schools were closed again

The Amherst Indy invites its readers to share any ideas you may have about how best to educate all Amherst Public School students this fall. The Indy will compile responses and share them with the Superintendent and School Committees, and summarize them in a future article. 

Please click on this link to go to a google form where you can share your thoughts.

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  1. Between budget reductions and safe socialization imperatives this is truly a challenging time for our schools. I appreciate Toni Cunningham’s insightful education posts, and thank you for offering the form for sharing our thoughts about how schools might resume in the fall. I look forward to seeing the results.

  2. Ask the community for help- retired teachers, parents, retirees, students, people who have tecoverex from covid19. Paley classes i. Split classes by half into morning and afternoon sessions, with volunteers helping in classrooms, taking kids outside, on field trips, in gym, walks, recess, helping kids stay separate at lunch, wash hands, assist in lessons, behavior and social distancing in halls, the library. Basically helping teachers. Kids could read outside and do writing. Use extra space like the Hitchcock Center, south Commin School, the extra space at the Middle School or Fort a River. Spread out the school year by starting in August. Run Monday to Saturday for fewer hours a day. Or spread the day by going longer. Ex. Middle and high school classes could run from 8 am to 6 pm with fewer students in the building per hour. Or split students into 2 sessions each day for four days a week.

  3. Thanks to Toni for using the pages of the Indy to generate some brainstorming on how folks would like to see our schools change when they re-open. Below, I list a few of the things I would like to see, focusing, not on the logistical and infrastructural challenges but rather on how we might reimagine the curriculum and pedagogy. I have also posted these comments in Michael Greenbaum’s article elsewhere in “this issue” of The Indy.

    So much of the discussion about reopening the schools has been focused on logistics – e.g. how will we manage safe social distancing. And rightly so. But I am interested in having us think about how we can use this moment to truly reimagine public education and not just return us to some semblance of stability. But here are four of the big ideas that I’ve been talking to others about- things I’d like to change.

    1. Education for Independent Inquiry – so many kids are struggling with distance learning and home schooling right now and this could be partially ameliorated by preparing kids to be independent learners. This is not a new idea at all and goes back to some of the earlier American educational theorists like Dewey. The goal of preparing independent learners was greatly undermined by the testing and standardization movements. And there are plenty of good reasons to do this besides preparing for the next quarantine.

    2. Teaching for Black Lives – Anyone notice what’s going on in all fifty states right now? It might lead us to ask, how has education prepared our kids for this moment? How can we insure that our children are educated in a way that leads them to create and sustain a just society? How do we insure that our kids are prepared to be the solution for what ails our nation right now? These questions ought to be central to any reimagining of post-pandemic education.

    3. Education inequities – the pandemic has revealed (and is also a result of ) deeply entrenched inequities in our society. Now is the time for us to address those inequities including those in the educational system (especially since most public school systems are going to be hit with post-pandemic austerity budgets) and also create curriculum and pedagogy that subverts those inequities.

    4. There’s been much written about how the pandemic has produced considerable emotional stress for kids for all kinds of reasons. And so it would be useful to consider how we prioritize curricula and pedagogies that address the emotional well being of children when they return to the classroom.

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