Tuesday, May 21, 2024

To Cambridge Public Schools superintendent Kenneth Salim, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School principal Damon Smith, members of the School Committee, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and Cambridge Public Schools administrators:

As schools will be closed through the end of the year and perhaps beyond, we hope you will acknowledge the ways our Distance Learning Plan fall short for Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students and consider changing the approach.

You have provided technological tools such as laptops for students to access remote learning, as well as more than 400 Wi-Fi hotspots for families who need them. This is a great start. But it is not enough.

While it is understandable that the K-8 curricula need to be adjusted significantly to go online, high school course content is generally delivered through a combination of lecture and group discussion formats seemingly easily adapted to online formats. If Cambridge Rindge and Latin School teachers need tools or training to bring their instruction online, such tools and training would be a worthwhile investment.

With regard to the current Distance Learning Plan: Some parents have noticed that very little new content has been introduced within remote learning mediums in the past week (April 13-17). At least some of our children’s class meetings did not touch on academic subject matter at all. Even in the courses that did move forward with academic content, the very sparse schedule – a once-a-week class meeting and small amount of homework – did not suffice to provide even close to half a school day’s worth of academic work (as per Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommendations).

Not moving forward in their courses could affect students’ ability to be prepared for future courses, leading to long-term inequities. To be a more equitable system, new content should continue to be introduced, if possible at the same rate that it was being introduced pre-remote learning.

We are exceedingly grateful that Cambridge Public Schools and its partners support students and families in addressing challenges such as food insecurity and the ability to access Wi-Fi. But we are disappointed that the opportunity to access a high-quality public education, which should be a right, not a privilege, is not being provided by the high school through its Distance Learning Plan. Is it not the responsibility of the administration to provide high school students at least with the opportunity to continue with their courses’ curriculum? Can we not, during this period of remote learning, continue to provide a high-quality education, as some other local high schools are doing?

We hope you will consider our experiences as parents and as community members. We are asking that you adjust the Distance Learning Plans to provide guidance and consistency, and that you provide teachers with the necessary tools to enable them to introduce content within courses at a rate that more closely resembles the original syllabi for high school courses. Our students deserve this opportunity.

Pia Cisternino, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School parent