We are writing to you today as concerned Manchester-by-the-Sea & Essex parents. We, along with other parents in this community, feel that the Manchester Essex Regional School District (MERSD) School Committee has failed to advocate for our youngest students when they voted FULLY REMOTE for school year 2020-2021 on August 11. Fully remote is unacceptable for this age group - while COVID-19 activity in our community and state is this low. There are countless studies showing the harm of increased screen time for both adults and children – why would we choose this for our youngest learners?
We would like to see grades K-3 start on September 16, 2020 – in-person— with a HYBRID model option offered, following the COVID-19 safety guidelines put forth by CDC and DESE with the 6-foot social distancing measures previously voted by the school committee. Or at the very least, offer proof to parents that the school committee is actively working towards the goal of an in-person learning by providing us with timelines and metrics parents can track in the weeks to come.
Here are some reasons why we truly feel this can be done safely:
Lower Cost: The costs to implement hybrid learning (following CDC/DESE guidelines) with grades K-3 will be lower than with the entire K-12 school district.
Lower Risk of Failure: Starting with these grades only, will likely lead to a higher success rate, given what we know to date from medical literature on COVID-19 – see below.
Most Benefit: The children in grades K-3 are the ones that will most benefit from in-person learning (as much as we can safely provide for them.) At the present time, 70 percent of Massachusetts school districts have an in-person learning option planned for the start of the year – why is MERSD part of the 30 percent minority?
Many medical experts feel that there is reliable data to say that children under age 10 are less likely to carry and transmit the COVID-19 virus - especially while community rates are low, as they are for the Manchester and Essex communities. Countless pediatricians have gone on record saying they would, without a doubt, send their kids back-to-school in-person. Our state and local numbers are within a safe range to begin in-person learning. Massachusetts has been well under two percent for quite a while now – the seven-day weighted average of positive molecular test rate on August 30 for the Commonwealth was one percent and Manchester & Essex both remain white on the COVID-19 Community-Level Data Map.
Our children don't need additional screen time. They need in-person time with professional teachers.
Teachers can be safe while in our school buildings if MERSD follows the guidelines as described by the CDC and DESE – we are counting on the MERSD Superintendent/School Committee Members/Principals to achieve the goal of in-person learning for our youngest learners. Don't let MERSD fail our youngest learners. There will be down-stream effects of this decision with regards to our local/state/national economy as parents are forced to quit their jobs to stay home with their children to implement fully remote learning—and the social/emotional and educational ramifications will be immeasurable.
It's not too late—you still have more than two weeks before the start of school. If you have forgotten what it's like to spend all day with a five, six, seven or eight-year-old – we invite you to spend the day with our kids. There is still time to correct the course the MERSD school committee vote has sent us down. The parents of MERSD’s young learners are counting on you.
Tamar Lipof MD, Manchester (Surgeon – worked in COVID ICU during MA peak)
Fares Mouchantaf MD, Essex (ICU Doctor – Chair of Medicine & Chief of Pulmonary at Beverly Hospital)
Tonya Colpitts PhD, Manchester (Virologist – Professor at Boston University School of Medicine)
Meghan McDiarmid Manchester (RN)
Jon McDiarmid Manchester (FF/Paramedic)
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