Friday, June 14, 2024

Dear members of the School Committee and superintendent Kenneth Salim,

We would like to thank you for your Jan. 19 decision to expand in-person learning to grades 4 through 12 and for your leadership. We understand that you have been under enormous pressure, having received hundreds of communications by those in favor and against reopening. We are particularly grateful to Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, vice chair Manikka Bowman and members Fred Fantini and José Luis Rojas for supporting the best interests of all Cambridge Public Schools scholars by voting for reopening March 1 without further delays.

Reopening is the right choice for our scholars, for many of whom remote school has been challenging from a mental health and learning perspective, despite the best efforts of their talented teachers. It is the right choice for families whose children need in-person special education services to thrive. It is the equitable choice for the families, including single-parent households, who do not have the privilege to work from home. Finally, this plan is nuanced, as it gives in-person priority to students based on their needs and preserves the remote learning option for families who prefer it. This plan is a step in the right direction and we hope it can be expanded to include more in-person scholars and more time in the classroom.

We acknowledge that reopening is met with fear and anxiety by some district staff and educators, and we understand that. Many parents who cannot work from home face the same fear. But we know more about the virus today than at the beginning of the pandemic, and we know how to minimize its spread. From testing to improvements in air circulation and masking and infection control teams, the district has taken significant steps to make schools safe for all who enter them. But such safety can only be maintained by families, scholars, teachers and other staff working together. The bonds between families and their teachers are strong. We encourage families who choose in-person to be transparent with their teachers about the steps they take outside school to keep the school community safe, respect Covid-19 guidelines and take advantage of the free testing available in multiple venues in the city. We also support this petition to prioritize vaccination of school employees.

One thing this pandemic has highlighted is that schools are essential to the mental and physical health of children, and that society stops functioning without them. We are especially grateful to all the teachers and school staff, in-person and remote, for their continued support to our children.

The Cambridge Coalition for Public Education