March 8 - NTA COVID-19 Update

We are all struggling to figure out how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.  To date, neither the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education nor the Massachusetts Teachers Association have released formal recommendations on how schools should respond, though both are working quickly to release guidelines. I expect that these will come early this week.  This weekend, I attended the MTA Executive Committee meeting, where we were given a report on the issue and informed that recommendations would be shared with local presidents early this coming week. I have also been in regular communication with David Fleishman and other members of his team who are developing Newton's response to the spread of the virus. First, the most important piece of advice that the MTA gave us is to hold superintendents accountable for making decisions based on the recommendations of public health experts, and not based on community pressure.  In Newton, we have a very competent Department of Health and Human Services. As the situation evolves, David Fleishman has followed their recommendations. The NTA's position is that, although David Fleishman may receive community pressure to take different measures, he should continue to do follow the advice of the Department of Health and Human Services. David and I spoke early this evening, and he will be sending out another update this evening sharing further developments, and the Department of Health and Human Services will give a new update on their webpage soon as well. David continues to work in close collaboration with that department, and, as you will see from his update, he continues to follow their advice.  The Newton Public Schools makes its communications to the faculty and community available on the home page of the NPS website. The Department of Health and Human Services posts information on COVID-19 here. Second, the district is asking that all communications on the issue come from a central source: your building principal should only refer you to the information released by David Fleishman and the Department of Health and Human Services. There is a high risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding if principals don't adhere to this, so understanding and patience on our part is crucial. Third, there may be a number of matters that the NTA could need to bargain on your behalf:

Use of sick daysAssignment of work to be done at homeMake up days for school cancellationsPay for hourly employees in the event school is cancelled.We will be discussing these matters in a meeting with HR early this week. Fourth, in the event that school is cancelled, there are state guidelines for how many days must be made up. Without yet going into detail, two things are clear:

In the event school is cancelled for an extended period of time, not all of that time will be made up; nor, in this event, does there seem to be an expectation from Commissioner Jeff Riley that districts attempt to implement "at-home" learning.

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