The pros and cons of how the Milton public schools will reopen for the 2020-21 academic year involve physical safety and dedicated teaching. Not to mention, imploring students old enough to take more responsibility for their own learning, such as in high school or perhaps the most academically motivated Grade 8 students, to do so.

Faith in older students’ ability is not the question. It may seem drastic and yet it may be a chance for the most capable students to further demonstrate their abilities.

But what about the other students who are younger, need encouragement and support from a teacher, have special needs or who just don’t like school at all?

Who is looking out for them?

On the converse, who is looking out for the teachers?

And, who is monitoring the teachers?

So many questions and concerns are being raised during this plan for a return to school.

Some parents, at least one who bravely came forward during a school committee meeting, let school administrators and the school committee know when the remote learning experience of this person’s children did not meet the students’ academic needs or classroom follow up last spring.

Other parents who may be unhappy with a remote learning model are afraid to come forward and let their concerns be known for fear of retaliation by a classroom teacher or a school administrator.

That fear among some parents may exist regardless of how the schools reopen.

To return fully in-person to school is neither medically-wise nor space-wise possible. In its July 29 presentation on school reopening models, a full-return to school, even if parents or students according to a task force survey want that, cannot happen at the Cunningham Elementary School, Principal Dr. Jon Redden said. Not to mention the cost of personal protective equipment and the enforcement by adult staff to ensure Grade 2 students through Grade 12 wear masks. There are allowances during the day for a scheduled, supervised mask break in an outdoor, socially distanced setting. The school buildings may not allow for a minimum 3 feet from each person inside, let alone the favored 6 feet.

A hybrid-schedule of in-school and remote-learning would be physically tiring. It sounds the best mix of being in person to socialize and having extra time at home to complete classwork yet as any commuter knows, it’s a drag. And, it requires a thorough indoctrination of a changing schedule.

Remaining in the school district’s remote-learning model may be best for now, perhaps until spring 2021 when more knowledge of a possible COVID-19 vaccine may be shared.

To ensure this, though, the entire teaching staff must be on board. For teachers with children and who do not live in Milton, would it be possible to enroll their children in Milton schools as long as they do not have to be physically in school until the pandemic is deemed medically over by federal health officials? When Hurricane Katrina devastated the southeastern U.S. on Aug. 23, 2005, many area colleges accepted students from affected colleges in the southeast. For teachers who live in Milton and have children in the town’s school district, well, what is the issue?

If parents choose to homeschool or follow a remote learning not of the district’s formation, these parents must accept the burden and consequences of going out on their own.

Increasing the rigor of instruction and increasing the quality of education is what is needed in the fall 2020 phase of remote learning. School building principals and all school administrators must come up with a way to check in with the teachers and monitor classroom instruction, teachers’ feedback to students and offer solutions. Teachers may not appreciate this and in the end, the benefit must belong to the students the teachers are hired to teach.

– Lisa D. Connell


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