Governor Charlie Baker
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon Street
Office of the Governor, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133
June 15, 2020
Dear Governor Baker:
We, your undersigned constituents, represent parents, teachers, and community leaders who are deeply concerned about the current state of education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As one of the leading states in public education, we implore you to set a goal now of returning all students to the classroom at full capacity for the start of the ‘20-‘21 school year.
The cost of continuing virtual “learning,” (in quotes because none of what our children have experienced in the last three months can be classified as learning), is much too high. Our children have been the most underrepresented group during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for you, as our elected official, to make our students the top priority. The academic, mental, and social costs from continuing virtual education far outweigh the risks of returning to school.
Since your March 15, 2020 and March 25, 2020 orders shuttering all public and private elementary and secondary schools, the quality and quantity of education throughout the Commonwealth’s public school system has been nothing short of a travesty. All students, K-12, from our students on IEPs all the way through our AP/Honors students have been left behind.
The quantity and quality of contact hours are not remotely comparable to in-person education. In most districts, students have received fewer contact hours with their teachers in a week than they would receive in a single day of in-person education. Content and connection to learning are two crucial, critical pieces to the process of learning. Both were missing over the past three months. A study cited by the New York Times predicts:
Spring remote teaching will lead to students falling seven months behind in comparison to in person classes.
As other states and private schools make definitive plans to return students to the classroom full time, Massachusetts has made no such plans. The achievement gap between our students, other states, and those that can afford private school will increase significantly. We know, as our Governor, that is unacceptable to you. Therefore, we ask that you take all necessary steps to prevent it.
Not only have our children suffered academically over these last three months, they have suffered physically and mentally as well. It has been reported that the school shutdown has led to higher incidents of child abuse, a spike in childhood depression, truancy, malnutrition, online bullying, and large disparities in education. Absences have exponentially increased, as many parents and students have given up on the virtual model. Parents are not able to return to work with their children at home, making it impossible to provide for their families. It is clear the cost of not returning our students to classrooms is too much to bear.
We understand the COVID-19 pandemic has caused upheaval across the world. However, the benefits of returning our students to the classroom far outweigh the risk factors. Numerous peer- reviewed scientific reports note children are at much less risk than adults, and those most at risk are those with underlying conditions and the elderly. Statistically, more children will lose their lives on an average each year from school bus accidents or school shootings than will lose their lives from COVID-19. The median age for a COVID-19 death in Massachusetts is 82, and 62% of fatalities have occurred in long- term care facilities for the elderly. As our Governor, you not only have a duty to protect those most vulnerable from COVID-19, but you also have a duty to prioritize our children by not impeding and stunting their education. Dr. Anthony Fauci himself, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated on June 5 that not opening schools in the fall “is a bit of a reach."
You, the teacher’s union, and DESE, all have the time now to make a plan for returning our students to their classrooms. If you prioritize our children, you must not let them down. Schools have already reopened in Taiwan, Germany, Israel, Norway, and many other countries. States have announced plans to get students back into the classroom at full capacity. This Commonwealth is filled with some of the brightest and most resourceful minds in the world. You and our other elected officials absolutely have the ability to reopen schools for the ‘20-‘21 academic year. Failing to do so would mean that you are failing our children. You must not let them down. They are our future.
Supporters of Bring Kids Back