The Nashua School District, like many across the state, plans to reopen its schools this fall under a hybrid learning model, with students in school a few days a week and then learning remotely for the rest of the week.
The district announced a reopening plan Monday to begin the semester fully remote, but transition to that hybrid plan starting in October.
But how do teachers feel about that plan? NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Adam Marcoux, the president of the Nashua Teachers' Union, to find out.
Update, Wednesday, 7 p.m.: Superintendent Jahmal Mosley and Marcoux, in a joint statement Aug. 5, said there continue to be many details that need to be worked out. They said once the reopening plan is approved, they can work together to address safety concerns, contractual issues, and other issues raised.
Peter Biello: So what are you hearing right now from the teachers you represent about this plan for the fall? Are they liking this plan or would they prefer to stay remote for longer than October?
Adam Marcoux: It depends on who I talk to. I represent the teachers, paraeducators, food service workers and secretaries in the Nashua School District. So I have a variety of individuals that I hear from about their thoughts on going back. I have people who are interested in going back full time into their classrooms. I have people that want to stay remote. I have people interested in doing the hybrid and everything in between.
Peter Biello: I see. And is the union fully satisfied with the safety guidelines and precautions the Nashua School District has come up with for when students return?
Adam Marcoux: Not quite yet. We're missing some pieces. You know, they mentioned the PPE and they're working on providing that for everyone, which we're very happy about. They have some detailed cleaning protocols and sanitizing procedures they're going to be using with foggers, and UV lights and different filters in the HVAC systems. One of the things that's listed in the plan is talking about moving from the full remote phase into a hybrid phase using metrics. And we don't know what those metrics are yet. So we have a lot of questions around those safety metrics to measure whether or not it's safe to proceed to the next phase of our plan.
Peter Biello: Okay, and aside from more clarity on metrics and how they'll be used, what specifics are the union asking for from the district to keep teachers safe?
Adam Marcoux: Well, we need to make sure that there's a solid plan and the workers to support that plan. We have 17 schools. Our high schools are extremely large. Our middle schools are also very large. And, you know, right now, during the school day at our elementary and middle schools, there's one full-time custodian. And I don't think it's fair to put that on one person all day long to keep those doorknobs clean, and the bathrooms, and the common spaces and the hallways. How is that going to be completed in a timely manner with the current staffing that we have?
Peter Biello: I see, and how do you reconcile the need for kids to get back to school for mental health and learning, and also so parents can work, with concerns for teachers? Is there a way, in your view, to make it work for everyone?
Adam Marcoux: Well, if I had that way right now, I'd probably be a very rich person. I'm a parent of three children. Two of them are school age and one of them is not yet. I was a teacher prior to being president of the union. I think from every angle that we've looked at this, when we address one angle of it, there's then concerns on three other or four other angles. We have great concerns about kids being home alone during the school day. We have great concerns about kids not having the technology and resources they need to be successful in remote learning. We also have concerns about their well-being if there were an outbreak in a school.
For our staff, we have an aging staff in education. That's no secret. So we have an aging population that we're concerned about. We have staff that are concerned about family members at home. We have parents that need to work to pay their bills and need their kids at school to be educated. I don't know what the right answer is. We are looking at every possible angle to address this, but safety and the health and well-being of everyone needs to be the top priority.
Peter Biello: How are you working with the district to make plans for teachers who are high risk or who live with those who are at high risk?
Adam Marcoux: So we have come up with a list longer than a CVS receipt with questions along those lines. We do have some protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with pre-existing conditions for just the person, the teacher or the staff member. That doesn't include if the staff member had someone at home with a pre-existing condition. But we have other things in place under federal law with the [Family and Medical Leave Act]. And in one of the acts, we also have the Emergency [Paid] Sick Leave Act right now for quarantine purposes. And under the CARES Act, there are some paid leave time for people in addition to any of the leave provisions we have in our contracts.
We're still working out some of these things with the district and getting answers to questions on whether or not our teachers that would like to work just remote can remain remote, and those teachers that want to return to return. And then, you know, figure out if we have kids that are remaining just remote, pairing them up with the remote teachers, and then the hybrid teachers working with those children that will be in the hybrid. So we're not there yet. We don't have a ton of time. But we need to really start looking at the specifics of what those things are going to look like for teachers, parents, food service, secretaries and other members of the school district.
COVID and The Classroom: NHPR wants to understand how this unusual school year is playing out across the state. Every few weeks, we'll ask you to answer a new question. The latest: How has going back to school been different for you this year? Give us a few examples here to help us tell the story.