By Ken McCool
Tonight the Matthews Board of Commissioners held a special meeting with CMS Board of Education Chairwoman Elyse Dashew and district six Boardmember Sean Strain. In this meeting, we intended to get some clarifying information on Plan B-Plus Remote for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, I left with more questions unanswered than answered.
First, I asked about how many students have enrolled in the full remote academy. Neither board member had a clear answer.
Second, I asked if our teachers were involved in the development of this plan. Again, I did not receive a clear answer. Chairwoman Dashew informed us that the district put out a survey to CMS staff, but that survey has been criticized for being confusing and not accurately portraying the plan.
Third, I asked what lunch will look like in the first two weeks of in school learning. Once again I was given no clear answer. We were told of the possibility of having the students eat boxed (lunches) at their desks to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements.
Fourth, I asked about funding of the arts and sports. Since games will not be played and events will not be held, it’s only natural to assume that key sources of funding for these programs will be lost. Yet again, I was given no clear answer other than an assurance that it would “be looked into.”
Fifth, I asked if CMS has considered setting up an IT hotline for the students if something goes wrong with their technology during remote learning. Both Chairwoman Dashew and Boardmember Strain pointed to the district’s IT department. However, Boardmember Strain added that the best way students should deal with these issues is with their teachers. I cannot disagree more strongly with him on this issue.
Our teachers are overworked as it is. We ask them to teach, to be counselors, and to be a point of contact for parents. In the midst of a global pandemic, how can we possibly ask them to also become healthcare workers and IT specialists? Teachers teach because they love their students, but we should not be putting them on the front lines of this crisis and making them do more work, and they all have to do it with no hazard pay. We need to advocate for our teachers more, and we need to do it now.
This week I spoke with multiple teachers who were concerned about the reopening of our schools. One teacher told me that they were so concerned about teaching during the pandemic that they drafted their will. Though the district says that two weeks of in-person learning should be safe, we are still putting individuals at risk to contract the virus and instilling fear into our teachers. What type of learning environment are we providing for our students if our teachers are afraid to teach? We should all be concerned if their plan for the first two weeks is as vague as their plan for remote learning.
It is becoming increasingly clear that CMS is not prepared for our teachers to return to work in two and a half weeks. CMS must answer these questions and the questions from the rest of the Matthews Board of Commissioners, and they must do so transparently. I am calling on CMS to publicly release their detailed plans for re-opening under Plan B-Plus Remote. In addition, the district needs to host a series of virtual town hall meetings to answer the questions of our worried parents. Silence is not an option on an issue as big as this.
Lives are at stake.
If a student didn’t know half of the questions to a test, they would receive a failing grade. Why are we letting our elected school board members get away with only answering half of our questions?
Ken McCool serves as a commissioner for the Town of Matthews.