Like many school districts in America, the T/E School District started the 2020-21 school year virtually. No one thinks virtual classrooms are as good as the real thing, but they were a necessity to fight the pandemic. In the stressful era of Covid-19, the re-imagining of education is no easy task for students, parents or teachers.
Going forward, the phased process to reopen the District schools is set to begin on October 12, with a fully hybrid model by the week of October 19. In regards to the reopening schedule for the schools, the District is following the metrics provided by the Chester County Health Department.
Regarding sports in the District – the community has learned that T/E will join the Central League in allowing its students to compete. However, the intention is to limit the competition to only schools that are part of the Central League. In addition, outside athletic competitions will limit attendees to 250 people, which include players, staff and spectators.
The District has a virtual Policy Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 PM. Near the end of the 100 page agenda, on page 74 under Policies and Regulations for Review and Discussion is Policy/Regulation 1131: Parent Organizations. Inexplicably, the District is proposing a complete overhaul of parent organizations, including the ability for representatives to speak at school board meetings. (Click here for Policy Committee agenda).
I have often posted on the importance of our collective voices. Not everyone will have the same opinion, but if one’s opinion is silenced, it is much harder to respect and understand the other side. Should the school board move forward on the changes proposed to Policy 1131, certain groups will have their voices silenced.
Why are these proposed changes to Policy 1131 important? Parent organizations in the District, such as BUILD T/E, FLITE and T&E Cares are significant contributors to T/E families and the community. These nonprofit parent organizations work with (and get results for) students and their families in the District. For some of these groups, the proposed changes to Policy 1131 would seek to stifle and silence. All voices matter, so why is the District seeking to change policy now, especially in the midst of a pandemic!
Using the parent run, all-volunteer organization BUILD has an example; the proposed Policy 1131 changes will greatly reduce its ability to support District parents and students with disabilities and learning differences as they have done for twenty years. BUILD currently supports 3,000 of the District’s students (of a total enrollment of 7,182 students). The pandemic has only increased the need for support from BUILD.
Feeling targeted by the District’s proposed Policy 1131 changes; BUILD posted on its website, in part the following:
… The proposed policy and regulation changes will severely limit BUILD’s ability to support our families. Here are just a few examples of what this change will mean for our organization. If this policy passes, BUILD will no longer be able to:
Speak publicly to the School Board as an organization on critical policy, education or financial matters: (Some areas have been assessments, student discipline, literacy, outsourcing of aides, etc).
Attend Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan meetings alongside parents who are seeking support to understand the complex IEP process, so they will more fully understand options to support their child.
Share information and resources directly with teachers and staff without first getting approvals from admin. Many T/E professionals have attended our events and given positive praise for teacher resources …
Our mental well-being has been devastated by the pandemic’s social and economic consequences. There is a mountain of troubling data about rising mental health problems and the need for additional support for struggling students and their parents. During these chaotic, turbulent times, our T/E families need more support not less.
The proposed changes to Policy 1131 will only seek to control and marginalize the abilities of organizations like BUILD to help District families. Our school district relies on the support of parents and the community – the silencing of voices is wrong. School board, please do not waste time and resources trying to silence the voices of parent organizations.
If you are a parent of one of the 3,000 students that BUILD has helped, your voice matters – use it! I urge you to email the School Board before 6 PM on Tuesday, October 6. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com . Use “Policy/Regulation 1131: Parent Organizations” in the email subject line. You must include your name and township of residence (Tredyffrin or Easttown) in the email.