Education

Education justice groups call for “equitable and safe schooling” during covid surge

“We face unique challenges as a society in these times. We must rise to these challenges by reimagining our schools, social services, and systems overall. As we support young people to learn, we must also cultivate a world in which they will grow to lead. We owe them nothing less than the thoughtful intention we hope to have conveyed here. We call upon Governor McKee, other elected leaders, and public officials to work together with communities to do what is right and necessary.”
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Published on January 8, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

A dozen local social and education justice organizations have issued a statement regarding the “equitable and safe schooling” during Covid-19 surges. Expressing alarm at the unprecedented and increasing number of Covid cases being reported out of schools, the organizations are calling for a mixed approach to reopening schools.

The organizations are calling for both in-person learning for special needs populations and children whose families require in-person schooling for childcare and other services AND robust distance learning for families who want to be engaged in the school community but are not confident in the health and safety conditions of schools.

Central to the message of these organizations is that all options must be “expressly anti-racist and oriented first toward the health and humanity of young people, their families, educators, school-based staff and our communities.”

  • High quality distance learning options for students and families who need it. Youth demands for how best to accomplish this include:
    • Create a set curriculum that ensures students are ACTUALLY being aided and supported during distance learning
    • Project-based assessments instead of tests where possible, when tests are administered they should be take home assessments
    • At the secondary level, delay midterms until they can be authentically conducted as project-based and take home assessments
    • Provide Pass/Fail for course credit as long as the pandemic continues to interrupt academic learning
  • Accessible and weekly mandatory in-school testing for all students and school-based staff
  • Consistently enforced health and safety protocols including masking in schools and and limiting class size to enable and maintain physical distancing
  • Provision of high-quality masks such as verified KN95s or KF94s and free at-home testing kits to students, families, and school-based staff
  • Maintaining clear guidelines regarding the quarantine and contact tracing processes for students and staff
  • Upgraded ventilation and/or air filtration systems
  • Clear, consistent and linguistically responsive communication to students, families and school-based staff. Youth demands for how best to accomplish this include:
    • Provide more information on vaccines and vaccine clinics and have sufficient free testing kits/sites available to students, families and school-based staff
    • Communicate in multiple formats and languages to support youth, families, and school-based staff to practice effective mask wearing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and other public health and safety measures that mitigate the spread of COVID-19
    • Regularly survey youth, families, and school-based staff to learn more about how schools and local and state government can better support them

“We face unique challenges as a society in these times,” said the organizations. “We must rise to these challenges by reimagining our schools, social services, and systems overall. As we support young people to learn, we must also cultivate a world in which they will grow to lead. We owe them nothing less than the thoughtful intention we hope to have conveyed here.

“We call upon Governor McKee, other elected leaders, and public officials to work together with communities to do what is right and necessary.”

The groups signing onto the statement include: ARISE, Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE), PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement), Rhode Island Urban Debate League, A Leadership Journey, YOUNG VOICES, Youth in Action, A Sweet Creation, CYCLE, Providence Student Union (PSU), STEAM Box, and the Center for Justice.

Here’s the full statement:

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