Open Letter to Columbia Public Schools Superintendent and School Board Members:
The Fall 2020 Reopening Plan has left many parents and citizens with concerns. Please address the following:
There is no requirement for wearing masks or face shields. Our Boone County Health Department director states masks should be worn when social distancing cannot be attained. Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidelines state face coverings should be worn by staff in all steps of reopening. The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that when social distancing is not possible, masks should be worn by nearly everyone over the age of 2.
As recently as Wednesday, some parents in the district had not received the email regarding the plan, and some were unable to participate in the limited alternate language webinars that took place that evening. They were not afforded an opportunity to ask questions they had. Only Arabic and Spanish language Zoom webinars were offered, thus a significant number of parents will experience further delays in obtaining information.
If only email was used to disseminate this information, families without any internet access have not received the email, nor have they been able to attend the information webinars.
These families should receive an extension to the June 30 deadline. The Columbia Public Schools plan is not available in any language other than English. Parents with limited English proficiency must be able to read that document to ascertain which schooling option is best for them and their child(ren).
For families with language barriers who want to choose the online option, will there be additional support available to them in the form of tutors, additional instruction time, etc.?
Assumptions are made in the document about resources available to families.
If families choose at-home learning with CPSElementary@Mizzou, will hardware with internet access be made available to every student? Will wireless hot spots be available and able to support multiple students in a household?
A certain streaming quality is needed for online courses. If it cannot be obtained, the student will need to attend in person. What happens for that student if in-person classes are canceled?
Will classrooms transition to individual desks, rather than shared tables? If not, will students wearing masks be placed at tables with only other students wearing masks? What sort of dynamics will this create in the classroom?
Will parents have the opportunity to change from one mode of schooling to the other if concerns arise during the semester? There is conflicting information on this.
If school buildings reach capacity and students have to be moved, what criteria will be used to determine who goes and who stays?
Schools will close for 24 to 48 hours following a positive test result for a student or staff member. What minimum or maximum number of closure days will determine an extended or full closure?
Neither a 24-hour notice to join a Zoom Q&A nor 4 to 7 days is a reasonable amount of time to give parents to learn about, and make, the important choice between in-person and at-home learning when they must weigh much more than just their child’s education.
First and foremost, without a mask requirement they are weighing their family’s health. They’re weighing their ability to place a career on hold, or to hire a tutor or another adult to assist in the online learning. They’re weighing their child’s social needs versus their educational well being.
Many, many families in the district do not have those choices at all. All need additional time to decide which option is best for them after receiving clear answers to their questions and weighing multiple crucial factors.
We look forward to the superintendent and School Board members addressing these concerns.
Members of CoMo for Progress, Faith Voices of Columbia Education Team and Race Matters, Friends