St. Louis Public Schools Reopening Recommendations By AFT St. Louis, Local 420, AFLCIO

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Throughout this entire reopening planning process, Local 420 has been in consultation with our stakeholders. We have had input from our general MEMBERSHIP, the City of St. Louis Health Department, members of the local 420 task force, the "Collaborative" School Districts, national AFT, Local 420’s lawyers, the CDC, science advisors, our Executive Board, parents and the community. We thank them for their participation, concern, and input. These recommendations are the result of those consultations.
 
Given that the present rate of COVID-19 infections is unstable and the numbers of cases in the City of St. Louis are increasing, as well as, information provided by Dr. Birx, a leader in the White House Coronavirus Task Force, AFT St. Louis has no other choice but to recommend that St. Louis Public Schools open with 100% virtual instruction at this time. We take seriously Dr. Birx, phone call to several city leaders including St. Louis which advised them to take aggressive, preventive measures to prevent a more serious outbreak of the virus. We agree!
 
The data indicating an upward trend of infection rate coupled with the nature of the call from the coronavirus task force indicate that we are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 which will potentially spread infections and ultimately cause an increase in hospitalization and death. The virtual only instruction in SLPS should continue until such time that the rate of infections have leveled off or start to decline. We want to reopen schools but only when there is a reasonable expectation for a safe return to in-person education.
 
Since 100% virtual is a new normal, there are certain organized labor related concerns that will need to be addressed. Therefore Local 420 intends to advocate for:
 
  • continued employment of non-certificated employees
 
  • job description adjustments
 
  • more PTO and sick day options for all employees
 
  • internet technology for all employees
 
     
    Whether SLPS reopens virtually or at some point with in the building instruction option, special attention to the needs of our families is very important especially since all of the evidence, so far, indicates that COVID-19 disproportionally affects the health of people of color. With this and other parental considerations in mind, Local 420 recommends that families with students enrolled in SLPS be provided with:
     
    • internet access and devices so they can participate in virtual learning,
     
    • basic technology training made available for those who are in need of it
     
    • social-emotional resources
     
    • assistance and education in trauma-informed practices, crisis intervention
     
    • food assistance.
     
    • assist to those in need of childcare and work by providing opportunities with local partners and organizations to fill the gaps during the school day.
     
       
      Once the rate of infections has leveled off or started to decline, SLPS may look to offer in building instructional options to parents. These recommendations for a safe as possible in building reopening of SLPS will not attempt to answer every single diminutive detail of reopening but will serve as a supplement to all of the detailed plans already completed that Local 420 has participated in since March.
       
      GENERAL OVERVIEW
       
      Local 420 recommends that reopening of in the building instruction include the following: 
       
      • SLPS working with their 5 independent unions to negotiate safe and effective modifications to its reopening plan; parents and students should be partners in theses community discussions.
       
      • Phased in adoption of a school scheduling model which allows for appropriate social distancing and does not exceed 10 students in the same classroom at the same time utilizing CDC recommendations with oversight by the City of St. Louis Health Department.
       
      • Modifications to the present evolving plan that includes clarity in enforcement and accountability.
       
      • A required two-week quarantine when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Quarantined staff will be provided with special paid sick leave by the district.
       
      • Contact tracing notifications to students, families and staff when a positive test occurs for a person known to have been in a school.
       
      • Modify present plan to ensure a safe and clean physical environment in schools, including remediation of poor ventilation systems. We suggest City of St. Louis Health Department be included in enforcement and accountability.
       
      • SLPS negotiate accommodations for high-risk individuals both employees and students.
       
      • Full time nurse and social worker at each site.
       
      • Building Steward and Site TEAC to work with administration to follow guidelines for safe and effective learning.
       
      • Wearing of masks by students age 3 and above according to CDC guidelines.
       
      • Enhanced training and clear guidance on proper hygiene, cleanliness and sanitizing-including individualized materials rather than shared for related arts when practicable. 
       


         
         
        RECOMMENDED 2020-2021 REOPENING SCHEDULE
         
        • Push back the first day for students until after Labor Day.
         
         
        • Year opening PD
         
        • Virtual technology/classroom technology PD
         
        • Gear-up for 100% virtual instruction
         
           
          • End of 1st Quarter
           
          • Infection rate at increased level- 100% virtual instruction continues.
           
          • Infection rate declining, per CDC – begin in-building reopening, go to step 5
           
             
             
            • "Three Step Gradual Phased-In Reopening” based on Science and Data including adoption of a school scheduling model(s) designed to decrease the number of contacts at any one time, i.e. A/B days or, half days.
             
              • Pre-K-Grade 3
               
              • Grades 4–8
               
              • Grades 9-12
               
                 
                CONCLUSION 
                 
                AFT St. Louis, Local 420 firmly believes that public schools are a cornerstone of the infrastructure of the City of St. Louis. The St. Louis Public Schools and our Members see our collective mission as providing a safe, nurturing, leaning community for our students, teachers and support staff. We also recognize that families, parents and guardians rely on schools to supplement and provide services especially those with special needs and other disadvantages. School closures have negative impact on families and significant long- term costs to our community.
                 
                We look forward to reopening schools. We cannot recommend returning to in-school attendance at this time due to the continued increase in COVID-19 cases in St. Louis City. We recognize that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to younger school-aged students, with the possible exceptions of areas of high community transmission. It is well known that adults have the highest rates of transmission while our students are unlikely to be the prominent drivers in spreading the pandemic. With an abundance of caution, we believe and recommend schools start on-line only then (after 14 days of consistent lower rates of transmission) schools gradually phase in the on-site instruction option starting with Pre-K through Grade 3. That the reopening plan continue to provide flexibility and the ability to evolve including negotiated scheduling and job descriptions.