Patience, Flexibility, Compassion, and Humor

Thursday, September 3, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Plainedge Federation of Teachers,
I hope everyone is excited to be back in school with our students in front of us, doing what we love! It has been a long and arduous summer, but please know that the PFT leadership, working with the District, has done everything in our power to come up with a plan for learning that we believe will prevent the spread of COVID and keep us safe. That being said, there is no doubt that our Plainedge community and membership have varying views on in-person instruction, which has added to the fears of our most vulnerable members. Even with the District doing all it can to create a safe environment for us to return to, we still all have a role to play in maintaining the health and well-being of all those attending school.
Just like many of you, once the pandemic hit, the circle of people I came in contact with decreased rapidly, and I found myself at home with only bi-weekly shopping trips to my local grocery store. As the summer began, I cautiously saw close family and friends - only outdoors at first, but eventually in closed spaces, while maintaining the appropriate social distance. I have not been inside a restaurant, gone to a movie, or visited a museum in months. In addition, I no longer hug close friends or any family that live outside my house. I am sharing this personal information so that you understand I am taking this pandemic very seriously.    
Over the summer, the extended year program was initially going to be 100% remote until the Governor, with limited time for schools to prepare, allowed in-person special education programs to run.  I will admit, I was very anxious at first and seriously considered telling our educators to boycott the program. I'm glad now that I did not make that choice. Fortunately, it was exactly what I needed to see. The program allowed some teachers to experiment with new methods of instruction, as well as an opportunity to see that the precautions we are taking will work in preventing the spread of COVID - even if on a much smaller scale than we have now.
Therefore, in order to protect ourselves and our students from the Coronavirus, we must remain diligent in looking out for each other! Our role in protecting each other is simple: we must follow all the guidelines in regard to mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing, and keeping our shared spaces clean. We must sanitize shared keyboards, smartboard tools, door handles, phones, light switches, and all other frequently touched surfaces. We must do this in addition to the custodial staff's excellent job of staying on top of routine sanitizing. We can never once say, "This is not my job." The health of our families, colleagues, students, and community members is literally in our hands.
Even if you are an individual who is less concerned about contracting COVID, please be aware that we have many colleagues reluctantly returning to school dealing with significant health issues. The arguments surrounding the need for testing and fever checks are ongoing, with experts changing their views daily.  I truly believe the best way we can limit our exposure is to act as if everyone is a carrier, including ourselves. I am very aware of the mixed views on returning. This is not going to be easy; however, we can make it easier by respecting each other's varying views and concerns. I also ask that we recognize the incredible task our school districts are charged with in opening our schools, especially considering that our communities have equally varying views on returning. There are facets of our opening that are of concern and continue to be discussed, but I truly believe the District is working to operate as safely as possible while also maintaining an exceptional education for the students of Plainedge.   
As we move forward this year, we will see that not all districts' plans are the same.  Please keep in mind that with every difference, there is a story behind each as to why a particular district planned the way it did. No one can say what plan is best. There is no best in this situation. Even if you do find a best today, you better believe there will be a different one tomorrow.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Plainedge Federation of Teachers, I wish you a year of patience, flexibility, compassion, and humor as we begin this journey together. I look forward to meeting with you all throughout the school year and hearing about the great accomplishments going on inside your classroom! In solidarity