Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Should Schools Fully Reopen in TESD? For 500 District Families, the Answer is Yes

As the one-year anniversary of school closing approaches, there remains much debate about their reopening. The issue of “when” and “how” to fully reopen the TESD schools is much discussed in the community.

There should be no argument on the many benefits of in-person schools – educational, developmental, emotional and mental health needs. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine recently stated, “While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of disease transmission entirely within a school setting where community spread is present, recent studies have shown that when mitigation efforts, such as universal masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene are followed, it may be safer for younger children, particularly elementary grade students, to return to in-person instruction.”

A group of 500 TESD families have come together to support in-person learning and to giving parents a choice. The virtual and hybrid models of learning are available in the District; the group is asking for a full in-person learning option.

The following letter from the group seeking full in-person learning was sent yesterday to the school board and administration. The thoughtful, well-written letter does not seek to pit parents against parents or parents against teachers — but instead makes the point that the District should meet the needs of all students and their parents.

The concerns and questions contained in the letter need to be addressed by the school board and the administration. The request for a meeting with Dr. Gusick regarding a full in-person opening plan will help the discussion move forward. Their request for a virtual school board meeting dedicated to discussing full in-person learning would be helpful to all parents and constituents in the TESD community.

Please take the time to read the letter below:

February 2, 2021

To: Dr. Richard Gusick, TESD School Board, and TESD Pandemic Team

CC: The Chester County Health Department

From: TESD Parents & Constituents for In-Person Learning

Re: Fully Open TESD Schools

We come to you as a group of nearly 500 (and growing) TESD families. We are moms, dads, psychologists, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and more. And we are bipartisan, mask-wearing, socially distant TE constituents who want our schools fully open now.

It has been nearly a year since our kids were sent home for 2 weeks in hopes of returning after Spring Break 2020. Since then, we have ridden the ups and downs with you, knowing the unprecedented nature of this experience. We did so willingly at first, but as we look back at the last 12 months and realize that most of our children have been in person, in school for 30 days or less, we cannot remain silent any longer.

Our question today is: what is our plan? We are the parents of your students and the residents of your district – and yet we are completely in the dark.

Here is our request:

  1. A meeting with Dr. Gusick within the week with a few of our members to discuss a full, in person opening plan (we will be contacting you for this).
  2. A full, in person plan for the rest of the 2020-2021 that offers a choice for a) all in person or b) all virtual delivered publicly ASAP.
  3. A virtual school board meeting within two weeks focused solely on a full, in person plan.

We believe these requests are well within reason, as well as within our Right to Know civil privileges, especially should any information on a full opening plan already exist.

Here is what we know:

  • The PA’s Governor’s office said elementary students should return to as much in-person learning, as possible, by January 25, 2021.
  • The CDC has said that if a school and community’s safety measures are adequate, that there is a “preponderance of evidence” that schools can be more fully open.
  • The CCHD has said if evidence exists that community rates are lowering, schools may transition to a three-foot socially distanced model.
  • Data shows Chester County Covid rates are consistently dropping every week.
  • Evidence is being released nationwide showing that transmission rates in schools are nearly nil – including CHOP Policy Lab who have said children are safer in school.
  • Neighboring districts are successfully moving toward increased in-person instruction:
  • Upper Merion, Spring-Ford, Sounderton, Central Bucks, Upper Dublin, Council Rock, Pennridge, and Wissahickon school districts: back full-time for elementary, with a few back full-time for secondary (or voting to implement full time for secondary in the coming weeks).
  • Radnor: surveyed parents in preparation for next steps and applied for full time elementary approval from the CCHD.
  • Wallingford-Swarthmore: voting in the coming week on their full in person plan. o Private and parochial schools in Chester County: open at a three-foot distance since August 2020 with objective success

What we also know: That TESD parents have no idea if a full, in-person plan even exists for our students for the rest of the 2020-2021.

This is not because we have not asked. We have asked endlessly and in nearly every instance, our emails go ignored. When they aren’t ignored, we quickly realize we have all been delivered the same copy and paste email back, with the “Dear X” line simply changed to make the response appear personal.

We also know we are the only district to have not had a full opening plan on the agenda for our first 2021 school board meeting. Peers from our neighboring school districts were shocked to hear this. We were also made aware that neighboring school districts have been allowing parents to join board meetings by video, so they can ask their own questions. TE has only allowed us to email in our questions so they can maybe be read by one of your representatives.

Please make no mistake, our group comes to you optimistic and hopeful to work together. We believe in the safety measures TESD has already put into place: you have succeeded keeping kids safe in school and we acknowledge the hard work and logistics that come with that effort.

Our group also supports our teachers. Parents and teachers have been pitted against one another in our nation’s discourse on opening schools and must not allow that narrative to continue. TESD parents know teachers have been given an impossible job and yet, many of our teachers and principals have been telling us for months they want students back. As parents, we know it is our responsibility to do what is asked of us at home and in our community in order to keep teachers safe. We believe we have already shown you we can be trusted.

TESD can no longer be a “great district” simply because of its staff and students. It has to be great because of our School Board and administrator’s willingness to work authentically with parents. The breakdown between your relationship with us has never been more dire, but it can be repaired – you just have to communicate with us.

Quite simply, we must move forward. We can all agree that our children have collectively sacrificed enough – enough for us and for you. It is time we collectively stand up for them.

Thank you and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

TESD Parents & Constituents for In-Person Learning

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82 Comments

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  1. TESD Parents & Constituents for In-Person Learning,

    I applaud you for coming together to create a coalition to represent the best interests of students and parents.

    The issue is the Memo of Understanding the School Board signed off on months ago which states that teachers can’t be fired or furloughed because of or during the pandemic. This gave the teachers Union unprecedented power. They were mandated to teach in person recently, threatened to walk out and since they have the Board over a barrel with the memo of understanding, the Board caved to the teachers Union and reversed their decision. This district is run by the teachers Union and the Administration. Maybe with a force of 500 plus parents, you’ll at least get lip service. Good luck!

    1. The memorandum needs to be revoked. Just like it would have been unthinkable to send the kids home a year ago, we now know the damage this is doing to students. Growing suicide numbers and depression is more important than union contracts.

      Teachers who are unable to work until they get vaccinated can be prioritized to teach the virtual only kids, or given other tasks (grading papers for teachers willing to be in the classroom, for instance) until the end of the school year once they’ve used up their sick days.

    2. I’m curious how you know that there is an MOU and what is in it. If what you are saying is true, it makes more sense regarding the predicament that we are in.

      It would obviously be very helpful to have a copy of this MOU, but I expect that might not be public.

      1. Yes, the school board signed a MOU between the District and the teachers union stating that teachers cannot be fired or furloughed due to the pandemic. I believe that T/E is the only school district in the area with a pandemic-related agreement with their teachers.

        1. On the same web page is a link to the video of the school board meeting. The MOU discussion starts at 4:25:12.

          Here is the paragraph that gives control to the union:
          The District agrees there will be no involuntary furloughing or involuntary,
          non-disciplinary demotion of any Employee, which furlough or demotion
          would take effect during the 2020-2021 Contract Year. The District shall
          continue to employ at least 508.7 full-time equivalent bargaining unit
          employees for the term of this MOU.

          1. Thanks Keith for posting the information re the MOU between the District and the teachers. Am I correct, that T/E is the school district in the area with this kind of covid-related agreement?

            1. TE is the only district in the area to have an MOU to my knowledge. Listening to the video it’s obvious that there was prior discussion in closed session about the MOU. Rev. Dorsey brought up his objections to the paragraph referencing furloughs and demotions. He was the only board member to vote against the MOU. Ms Stone was ready with an explanation about how furloughs would be almost impossible to implement. But she conveniently left out any discussion about demotions which are much easier to implement and much more impactful on union cooperation. I’d say TE has a very union friendly school board and administration.

        1. The teachers and Administrators in TE take care of themselves and only themselves. When the pandemic hit, they weren’t thinking about the kids or families in TE and they might respond to the pandemic. They thought of themselves. They spent precious time securing raises for themselves and writing agreements that benefited them and only them and the Board went along, even when pushback from the community was strong and loud. The only reason Gusick responded yesterday is the
          TESD Parents & Constituents for In-Person Learning letter signed by 500+ parents (and growing) printed on this website and read by possibly thousands of parents. Let’s build and solidify this coalition.

          The root of the problem is a School Board that covers for a self serving Administration and teachers Union.

          Let’s address the root of the problem with our newly formed power base. Voting out the School Board addresses the root of the problem so these issues won’t arise in the future and we can direct our focus in making kids first in this District.

  2. Thank you Pattye for posting. We have a board that needs to be changed out. They have done so much harm to this commnunity. Increasing taxes and salaries during covid, looking to make changes to the Build program, no voice for parents during board meetings, and even having to register. 4 open seats this year. Vote them out.

    1. Unfortunately November is a long way away, too long for the kids to wait to get back into school. I hope the school board gives serious consideration to this request. Parents are coming wanting to work in good faith with the administration and school board wanting to find a solution.

      However if they do not, rather than wait November because that is far too long, parents should seriously consider building a case and petitioning the court under the 1949 act 14 section 318 to remove members of the board. There is not much of a precedent for this, however there’s not much of precedent for what it’s currently going on in the school district.

  3. I don’t understand how parents think we can fully reopen? The classrooms can only hold 12 students max, that doesn’t account for any support staff who may be needed. How can we fully reopen when families are still traveling and going on vacations? If we add more students they’ll be eating in their classrooms, a closed space with masks off with limited circulation. I understand the need to get our kids back in school but it just isn’t possible right now. Do we want our teachers getting sick? Do we want our students getting more exposed than they already are? It’s a global pandemic. Something none of us have ever experienced I think everyone needs to step back and thank the district for getting our students in as much as they have. Some school districts have yet to even reopen yet we’ve been trying to add more kids when possible. What these parents want is completely unrealistic for this school year honestly.

    1. Peeved in Paoli,

      Here is what we know:

      The PA’s Governor’s office said elementary students should return to as much in-person learning, as possible, by January 25, 2021.
      The CDC has said that if a school and community’s safety measures are adequate, that there is a “preponderance of evidence” that schools can be more fully open.
      The CCHD has said if evidence exists that community rates are lowering, schools may transition to a three-foot socially distanced model.
      Data shows Chester County Covid rates are consistently dropping every week.
      Evidence is being released nationwide showing that transmission rates in schools are nearly nil – including CHOP Policy Lab who have said children are safer in school.
      Neighboring districts are successfully moving toward increased in-person instruction:
      Upper Merion, Spring-Ford, Sounderton, Central Bucks, Upper Dublin, Council Rock, Pennridge, and Wissahickon school districts: back full-time for elementary, with a few back full-time for secondary (or voting to implement full time for secondary in the coming weeks).
      Radnor: surveyed parents in preparation for next steps and applied for full time elementary approval from the CCHD.
      Wallingford-Swarthmore: voting in the coming week on their full in person plan. o Private and parochial schools in Chester County: open at a three-foot distance since August 2020 with objective success

      1. I understand that, but aren’t we at the limits of what is safe in the classroom? How many kids are in each class? How can we possibly accommodate all the parents who want their kids to return AND keep our 6 feet social distance guidelines? I’m in favor of schools opening up as well because it’s what’s best for everyone, but can we really add any more students right now or are we already at our limits?

        1. Apparently you don’t have kids in the school. My middle schooler has 3 kids in some of his classes. Most high school kids and middle school kids do not go to or want to go to school because it’s easier at home. They can take tests while on a video chat with multiple friends giving answers, use google or their text books. At elementary level classes are also under capacity. I know a of a kindergarten class that has no children in it. There was two but it was one girl and one boy and they did not want to go anymore.

          1. That’s good to know!! I wish the district would put something out with numbers so we can see. I just assumed we were at capacity- if there really are that many low classrooms then I can definitely see the push to add more students. I’m curious though how they could make it fair if they aren’t able to accommodate everyone who wants to come back full time.

            1. The logical start would be to poll the parents to see how many would pick fully virtual and how many would pick fully in-person.

    2. I am so sick of the fear of a disease that has a 99.7 survival rate and is even greater for children. This is extremely damaging to our children. The Teacher are LAZY. Easier to work from home than go to school. COVID is an excuse. If you don’t want to send your kids, keep them home. If you are worried about transmission don’t go out. Let the rest of us live our lives in peace. And don’t give me “we will overwhelm “ the health system. That is not true (last few months as indicator) and we have much better therapies to treat the disease. Stop trying to control the rest of us who don’t live in fear.

      1. Excuse me do you even know anyone who is a teacher? The teachers are juggling teaching virtual students and in person students everyday but Wednesday. It’s so much harder for them to do their jobs this year than ever before. What teachers are teaching from home? Except for Wednesday there are students in their rooms every single day. So when are they teaching from home being lazy? I’d love to see you learn how to juggle the entitled parents who don’t understand that the teachers are only following the district guidelines. Trust me they want nothing more than for school to go back to normal. This isn’t fun for anyone. It’s a hell of a lot more work for teachers and support staff. I know teachers who stay at school until 5 or 6 PM just to get their work done.

        Also- I didn’t say anything about overwhelming the system. The guidance says being in school is safe IF WE FOLLOW PROPER GUIDELINES. What I asked was can we really add more students and still follow the guidelines imposed by the state? Because from my experiences the classrooms are already mostly full and it just isn’t possible to reopen. It just isn’t practical to roll out a fully in person option because there isn’t room.

        1. I go back to the survival rate. Are you really worried about something that you survive 99.7% of the time? You, our government, school district, teachers unions have succumbed to fear. What model is that for our children? Go back safely is a euphemism for “I am scared of something with a 99.7% survival rate”. We have almost a year of experience in how to deal with this virus and everyone still approaches with the same methods. Haven’t we learned anything? We have but everyone is too afraid to say anything.

          1. ARE YOU KIDDING ME THAT YOU JUST CALLED TEACHERS LAZY!!???????? We are juggling 5000 tech issues a day, finding engaging and appropriate online lessons for students that are sticking with State standards, making videos and creating 1000 wksht a week, managing behaviors and expectations thru a computer
            screen! We have to manage students in a class AND at home at the same time…. all while dealing w ignorant comments from ppl like you who could NEVER understand what it takes to do a teachers job right now unless you are one of us!
            You should be THANKING your teachers instead of spewing deeming comments based on your own ignorance that makes you look like a fool!

            1. I did not write the previous message but wanted to respond the the teacher’s comment above. I am part of the group that strongly supports in-person learning. The VAST majority of us absolutely love our teachers and fully value how hard they are working with a million hoops to jump through on a daily basis. My children have had the most wonderful teachers thus far and we appreciate them so very much. We proudly displayed our “T/E teachers, we support you!” yard sign for months as we navigated these difficult months with them. However, I will just as proudly place our yard sign asking our schools to be open fully now. This is not parents vs teachers. This is parents watching their children’s mental health declining and love of learning declining (by no fault of the teachers themselves but by being isolated in front of a screen all day) when science backed evidence states that it is safe and necessary to reopen schools. We can not sit back and watch our children suffer any longer. Enough is ENOUGH.

            2. HOW DARE YOU. I agree 100%. Although I am not a teacher(I have previously worked as support staff), I have several family members who are teachers. This time has been especially hard for teachers. They are putting in way more time than normal just to get lessons up and running and ready for the students. I personally know teachers who are still at school past 6:30pm. Teachers are not lazy. It seems that some people need someone to blame. Do not blame teachers, blame the virus. Everybody is doing the best that they can in an impossible situation.. there is no one-size fits all answer.. We are all figuring out things as we go. Hurtful, personal comments directed to those who are teaching your children everyday, whether in person or via computer, are not helpful or warranted. Let’s set an example for our kids and show kindness toward one another during this time of turmoil.

              1. Concerned Grandman,

                In reality, our schools serve the interests of no one other than the group of teachers and Administrators who work in them.

                As you have just demonstrated through your comment, teachers and Administrators operate within a rhetorical framework that puts them at a distinct PR advantage. Since the teachers unions can shield their own avarice with claims of “public service” to children, they can manipulate the actual public into thinking that more money, job security, or political power for themselves is in everyone’s interest instead of their own. They claim that the hopes and dreams of TE’s children are somehow mystically present in their paychecks and their Memos of Understanding as if the funds in each of their bank accounts amount to some sort of benefit we all get.

                We’ve seen a ramping-up of their special pleading during the pandemic as union leaders have identified the crisis as an opportune moment to blackmail students and parents for more concessions. The mafia-style protection racket proceeds unabated.

                It has to stop. Now. The teachers Union has consolidated their power with demands, threats, and walkouts. We must consolidate our power with the newly formed coalition that can forge like minded people to come together and vote out the current board and get back to making kids first.

        2. What classrooms are “mostly full”? Give a specific example, grade, class. Because most classes at CHS are 5 or less (usually less).

          Give parents a choice!

          – full time virtual? Ok.
          – full time in-person? Ok.

          Separate the classes where possible and allow teachers to teach one or the other if numbers allow. Minimize the teachers doing both in-person and zoom at the same time.

          This is our future. They CAN safely be back in school – other SD, countries, and states are doing it.

          Our School Board WILL NOT make a difficult decision. They said that in August – “we are looking for guidance”. They want to pass the buck and have someone else make the decision. Let’s not allow them to take the easy way out.

  4. Just something to point out, while there may be 500 people in said group, it’s entirely true that they aren’t all there in support of reopening full time. Perhaps some are there to watch the craziness of the entitled parents who can’t seem to grasp that we are in the midst of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC! Everyone wants to see the kids go back in person, full time. This is NOT the time to do it. The same parents who do nothing but complain about masks and kids not being in school are the same ones traveling and having mass get together (maskless, I might add) and generally not following the guidelines and this is exactly why we are still so far into this mess! Stop blaming admin and teachers. They have every right to be worried and to advocate for themselves the same way you’re doing. They see your kids pick their noses and cough/sneeze without covering mouths or washing hands. They see how the kids are on top of each other in hallways and outside and they know that your kids aren’t doing what they should be doing to keep others safe. Stop bullying the district into doing something that is not safe for all. If you don’t like it, LEAVE!

    1. Mindy,

      YOU LEAVE, you’re obviously a teacher and full to the top with all the power the School Board has bestowed upon you. Fellow parents, Mindy’s declaration is the result of a school board that completely ignores the wishes of their community and votes time and time against us and in favor of Mindy and the people who are supposed to work for us. This is really who they are and what they think of us.

      1. Not a teacher at all. But a parent of multiple kids who have either gone through the district or are still going through the district and want to support their teachers the way they have supported my kids throughout the years. Tired of seeing the parents who consistently blame teachers for what’s happening in our schools. They’ve busted their behinds and are working harder than ever, in ways they never dreamed of, and yet people like you sit here and preach from your high horse about how terrible they are for wanting to be safe. I don’t need to leave. I’m not the one complaining. I’m grateful for everything they’ve done and continue to do.

        1. Mindy,

          I believe you are a teacher. Either a teacher or an Administrator. If not, then give your full name. You have nothing to fear. You’re a gung ho supporter of the bully establishment.

          You don’t need to leave because you’re not complaining? According g to that flawed logic, parents who speak out should leave?

        2. Where does this letter blame teachers? We appreciate our children’s teachers and are thankful for the hard work they have put in this year. We just want a plan to move forward like many other districts have done. No one is asking to take away the virtual option, but it is time for those who want to be able to return to school in person.

      2. Funny you mention not bullying the teachers and administration as you bully and mock children and their parents- parents who are watching their children suffer needlessly and who will no longer stand for it.

    2. Mindy, you don’t really seem like you like kids, or parents. Your portrayal of children and their families is really insulting. I’m not sure who you represent but I do believe our School Board, Superintendent, wonderful teachers and principals have significant more respect and admiration for TE families than you do. I hope you aren’t a teacher. It would be devastating to know this is what you thought of your students. Parents have followed every rule TESD has asked of us to keep our school communities safe. We don’t need your approval: our school data shows that parents and teachers have done their job keeping our schools safe. The number of principals and teachers in TE who have told us they want students back but are clearly, like parents, fearful of standing up, only have people like you pitting us against each other standing in the way. Thankfully we’ve come together as a community to move forward and can put comments like yours in a box.

    3. Mindy, honey,…put down the remote and turn off CNN. You know what’s awesome about living in America (for now), we have the gift of free choice. If you don’t want to send your kids to school..good news! You can honker down in your basement and continue to virtually “learn”. Teachers are essential. Learning is essential. If teachers are uncomfortable…again, free country. They can quit. (See how this free choice thing works…it’s not without consequences…but it does exist). You have a 99.7% chance of surviving this virus under the age of 60. Schools have been open in MANY states for the entire school year. There has not to my knowledge been an increase in teaching professionals in those state’s dying from covid. So stands to reason, it’s safe for essential workers to be essential…or find a new job that is less essential and can be done from home. Perhaps they’d be happier getting a job at a full virtual school.

    4. Mindy, ahhh I knew you would pull out all the latest buzz words. Just because you don’t like the position of others doesn’t mean they are a bully, but hey folks like you…that’s what you do. I suppose those folks are racist and spreading disinformation too. The sad thing is its the kids who are suffering the most, we’re all worried about getting sick but at what cost to our children are we going to keep this up? There are alot of studies and sources all over the internet, both from non-partisan, left and right leaning organizations that show transmission rates in schools are very low and in fact the CDC recommends reopening schools. I thought we were following the science but I guess not, since its not supporting the fear mongering position that for some reason you feel so strongly about. Oh and by the way I am a parent and I have a child in the school district and two others who have graduated and are in college attending in person classes!

    5. Mindy,
      We are in a global pandemic. I expect you are one of the privileged few who have their own home, a yard, a neighborhood AND a room for each child.

      You have resources and time to invest in your children. It is true that there are many (a large majority) of folks that are like this in T/E.

      This isn’t the case for everyone. Many have to decide on working and providing (even in a global pandemic) for their family over staying at home an ensuring that their 10, 11, 12 yo are signing onto school.

      Many kids are getting lost and worse a majority are losing ground to the world (where almost all schools are open/full time in the developed world) and to our brethren in the south who have opened up and who experience no worse and many times much better outcomes on infections and teachings.

      The science (I hate that term) is coming to show what many of us knew already — schools are NOT spreader locations and kids are not at risk. Teachers can be provided for and the district can ensure that at risk teachers are cared for.

      The problem with “not the time to do it” is never-ending. You have no time where you’ll say YES unless it is after the pandemic. When exactly is that?

      You just want to say NO! and I think you aren’t being honest with this group as to why. It is illogical if you want your kids in school and you are not a teacher/administrator. It has been a year.

  5. TESD Parents & Constituents for In-Person Learning,

    There is power in numbers. With this 500+ coalition you can direct your attention to the root of the problem which is a school board that cow tows to every whim of the TE teachers Union and Administration who ignore the wishes, ideas and input of a community of well qualified parents and interested citizens. Support candidates who understand the issues and vote them in while you vote out all the teachers and Administrators on the Board who vote in the best interests of the teachers and the Administrators. There is great power in numbers. Keep growing the coalition. Recruit all citizens, not just parents. Educate voters about what is happening and why.

  6. I believe what is being suggested is to offer the option of a) full time virtual and b) full time in person. Then those people who chose to stay home can, and those who chose to send, can. It would allow for those who are virtual to be in a class together, and the teacher would be able to teach those kids, and those who are in person would be grouped together. So the teachers can be able to Teach more easily bc they can focus on either virtual or in person, not a combination.
    Plenty of other schools have opened up, and by maintaining safety protocols have not had increases in infection rates. The science supports opening schools. If you want to keep your kid home no one is trying to take that choice away from you.

  7. I agree that children belong back in school everyday. I refer to Dr. Levine’s statement…
    “recent studies have shown that when mitigation efforts, such as universal masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene are followed, it may be safer for younger children, particularly elementary grade students, to return to in-person instruction.”
    The important line in this statement is WHEN MITIGATION EFFORTS ARE FOLLOWED. It has been my understanding from the beginning that TE does not have the room for proper 6 ft spacing. I believe the numbers are going down because we are past the Holidays and people are behaving again by social distancing. What happens when spring break comes? Are all those parents going to be willing to not travel during break to keep our numbers down??? The kids will probably be distanced down to 3 ft at that point. Teachers still have not been vaccinated. In my opinion, it’s still too soon. Especially with the variants that are popping up now.If I were a teacher I would want to wait at least 3 weeks after my 2nd dose of vaccine. The parents who wrote the letter may be honest about not traveling and staying safe at home but you have at least that many families that are not and still having play dates, sleepovers and traveling and sending their children to school without quarantining when coming home from a trip out of state. The school district is going by the “honor system” for travel. To the parents who do choose to travel and send your kid back to school the day after a flight, thinking that nobody will ever know… children are not liars by nature. They are innocent. They tell their friends and teachers what they did over the weekend. So when they come to school and say “i was on an airplane for 6 hours yesterday” your secret is out and you are labeled a liar in the minds of all the adults who have come into contact with your child. Very selfish and foolish putting so many others at risk. I feel for the families who are taking mitigation efforts seriously and their children should be able to go to school again but it is a risk when not everyone is playing by the rules. No easy answer. Hopefully the vaccine rollout will improve and we can move forward. I wish the parents good luck with their efforts and hope that everyone stays safe and well.

    1. While there may be some “liars” about traveling- it would be totally within the PA travel advisory guidelines to “be on a flight for 6hrs” and return to school the next day. If you look at the guidelines children under 11 do not not need be tested at all after travel and anyone over 11 can test up to 3 DAYS PRIOR to even returning to the state and not be required to quarantine providing they have a negative result. While there are many who don’t agree with these guidelines they are what they are and they are the only rules people need to follow until told otherwise.

  8. It isn’t the Union. It isn’t the teachers (and there is a difference). It isn’t even the Board except they are the ones who do his work for him. It is the administration. They lead by and with fear. #gusicksgottago

    1. gusicksgottago,

      It is the Union. It is the teachers. It is the Administration. Parents and citizens have been completely wiped out of the equation. If Gusick leads by and with fear, he does it with the knowledge and blessing of the school board.

      Do you know of another school district where the teachers Union has a MOU (memo of understanding) stating that they can’t be fired or furloughed no matter what? That’s why people like Mindy write in and talk to us parents like we’re dirt. She can’t be fired or furloughed no matter what she says, so she says the truth about what teachers think and how they feel about us and our kids.

      Grow the coalition. It’s already a huge power base. Appoint candidates to challenge every single board member. Educate voters about what really goes on. Vote in a School Board that will not tolerate teachers and Administrators who bully and intimidate parents and citizens.

        1. Me,

          When has a teacher ever been fired for disciplinary reasons in TE? I’m a long time observer and I can’t think of one incidence when a teacher was let go for disciplinary reasons other than the science teacher who showed up drunk at 9 in the morning and passed out before students called for help and an ambulance came to the High School. What other time has a teacher been fired for disciplinary reasons? Not during the hazing scandal, not during the sexual assault scandals where teachers preyed on vulnerable students while their teacher peers stood by and watched and enabled it. Not even then!!! Without the MOU, at least there was the threat of disciplinary action due to abhorrent behavior. Now, theres not even the threat of disciplinary action.

          I agree that we have to address the root of the problem, which is a school board that covers for a self serving teachers Union and Administration. Vote them out!!! It will be very easy to do with a 500+ group of parents sticking together for the good of the students.

          1. Please stop spreading misinformation. Teachers are subject to disciplinary action. The MOU makes no changes to disciplinary actions that the district can take against faculty. Disciplinary matters are confidential— that’s why you generally hear little about discipline. For better or worse, TESD is know for sure running a tight ship with its employees. I know educators who have chosen to work at Radnor and LM over TESD’s micro-management of faculty.

            Regarding the MOU: when working conditions change-which they have as a result of Covid—employers are contractually obligated to bargain with employees according to labor law. PSEA has advised all logical a as they have negotiated the changes. It would seem logical that those energized to reopen would want the school buildings fully staffed with teachers. How is that supposed to happen if the district furloughs or demotes teachers. So, while the MOU (and teacher’s union) has become a target of scorn for some of the reopening crowd, it has no bearing on the district’s ability to reopen. Don’t let the comments section of a blog mislead you into misdirecting your anger toward the teachers and TEEA.

            1. Clarifying,

              The comments section of this blog do not mislead readers into misdirecting our anger toward the teachers and TEEA. This blog is the only place interested citizens can go to get accurate information. Citizens are left in the dark because transparency in this District is non existent.

              Regarding the MOU: If when working conditions change-and employers are contractually obligated to bargain with employees according to labor law, why is the TESD the only School District to enter into a MOU, giving unprecedented power to TE teachers, while teachers in other Districts aren’t getting the same unprecedented, outrageous entitlement? It’s because teachers in other Districts don’t come first like they do in TE.

              Employers or School Boards are NOT contractually obligated to give teachers unprecedented power in times of countrywide crisis.

            2. Clarifying,

              It is disingenuous at best for you to say you know educators who have chosen to work at Radnor or LM instead of TE due to working conditions.

              There are hundreds and hundreds of job applicants for each open teaching position in TE. Educators feel very fortunate when they get a job in TE.

            3. Clarifying some facts,

              You are correct that the MOU does not prevent disciplinary action. And you are correct that changes to working conditions delineated in the contract need to be renegotiated. However, it’s instructive to note that none of the other 60 districts in the 4 county area surrounding Phila found a need for an MOU to my knowledge.

              Regardless, the MOU took away a powerful lever to prevent union labor action such as the sick-out that occurred at TE on Dec 14th when the board voted to return to hybrid instruction. If the union won’t return for hybrid instruction what would their response be to full-time, in-person instruction? So, what is that powerful lever? The district has the power to demote teachers from full time to part time status pretty much at will. Think of art teachers, computer science teachers, phys ed teachers, etc that are underutilized. When the union president tells Gusick they will not return to in-person instruction until everyone is vaccinated and instead resort to labor action Gusick has no leverage to entice them to return because of the MOU. If there was no MOU then Gusick could say, “OK, if you don’t want to return to in-person instruction then the district will revisit workloads and demote teachers to part time that are underutilized.”

              The School Code and subsequent court decisions govern the applicability of furloughs and demotions. It’s a lengthy topic that I won’t go into now. The district solicitor might want to expand on the topic at a public meeting.

              1. Keith Knauss,
                Excuse me, but you have no idea if teachers are “underutilized”. That is an assumption you are making.

              2. Keith Knauss,
                Excuse me, but you have no idea if or which teachers are “underutilized”. That is an assumption you are making. Are you a teacher in T/E? Do you know how the teachers are being “utilized”?
                Yeah, I didn’t think so.

              3. Keith Knauss, thank you for your explanation of the MOU between TE and the union. Very interesting to know that TE is the only school district in the region to have such an agreement. If the union didn’t think that there was value in such an agreement, they would not have pushed for it.

              4. Clarifying the facts,

                Thank-you to Keith Knauss for clarifying the facts.

                This is just another example of teachers trying to manipulate the public into thinking that more money, job security, and political power for themselves is in everyone’s interest instead of their own. The hopes and dreams of TE’s children are not somehow mystically present in your paychecks and your Memos of Understanding. You do it for the benefit of yourselves, not the children.

              5. While Keith provides much needed clarification on many topics, especially due to his background on a school board, doesn’t mean that everything he says is correct. I appreciate a lot of the insight he provides.

                Commenting on “underutilized” teachers, however, is an assumption and inflammatory.

              6. Definitely wrong. LM and Radnor both have MOUs for the pandemic. You would be hard pressed to find a local that doesn’t. Again, the part of the MOU that has been the subject of debate on this message board has no bearing on re-opening schools. Those who pretend it does are spreading misinformation.

              7. Clarifying,

                Please provide evidence that an MOU exists at Radnor and/or Lower Merion between the district and the teachers union. You must have some evidence as you are emphatic that I am “Definitely wrong”.

                I’m always willing to admit I’m wrong if evidence is provided.

  9. People like Mindy (above) are a problem. Making assumptions about the parents in this group and telling us to leave? While I would love to leave, my kids do not. TESD is their life and they love it ! We know there’s a pandemic, Mindy, but the kids are suffering worse mentally and physically . If Mindy has kids in the district and are thriving, then good for her! But that is not the case for everyone. Mindy and her kids can stay home while our kids go to school with masks on! Thanks Mindy for your nastiness! You should learn to be kind !

  10. Interesting, nasty comments. Stay home! Look at stats on children getting and passing the virus and suicide rates. Stay home!! Kids deserve to be in school other states are fully open as well as western PA. Stop your liberal propaganda! Our kids are suffering!!!

    1. I fully agree schools need to reopen but can we honestly add more kids and follow guidelines? I’d be interested to know how many kids are enrolled for hybrid in each school. From what I hear it seems like most classes are almost full so where could we put the additional students? If we have to follow the 6 foot social distancing guidelines I don’t think it’s possible to reopen like these parents want.

      1. My children attend one of the elementary schools and only 55% have chosen hybrid. This percentage would likely decrease if the options moved to fully virtual or fully in person. Both of my children have 6 other kids in their classrooms- if this doubled when the hybrid was combined there would be 12 in each of their classrooms. This hardly seems “overcrowded” to me. Also, 6 feet is not mandatory.

        1. I thought the state came out with the 6 feet guideline for
          Social distancing desks? Has that changed? If we really can make it work then I’m all for it, I’m just curious if every school has low hybrid enrollment or if it’s just certain classrooms. I don’t know how the district could make it fair if they aren’t able to bring back everyone who wants to be full time.

  11. Bravo. My sentiments too. Making broad generalizations about the parents in the group behind the letter was in poor taste and untrue. I’m in that group and am not a millionaire or rich by any means. My spouse is still out of work 10 months after losing their job. My children are masked up 100% of the time outside the home including my 2 year old. My older son is suffering mentally due to the pandemic and getting him back in school would help a lot. I honestly fear more for the long-term effects on our children’s mental health than the physical threat of COVID at this point. We are not bullying the administration – we are tired of trying to be heard (remember the hundreds of comments that went ignored last year when the plan came out from the school with less than a day for all parents to review a PPT of over a hundred pages as an example) and refuse to let it happen any longer. A solution the state needs to consider is to move teachers to the highest priority with doctors and nurses so they don’t have to fear for their health anymore. And this entire situation, along with a number of the other scandals over the recent years, has caused me to start the process to move from the school district I myself attended. I insisted my children would go to TESD for their education despite my spouse being a grad of another local district, and am increasingly disappointed with this district.

  12. In my mind this has nothing to do with how hard anyone is working the real question is are the students learning and thriving – everyone is jumping thru so many hoops to what end. I would invite any board member, teacher or admin to my house (with a mask) and observe for the entire day what 1 day of virtual is like for my 3 children in multiple schools with different schedules within the same TE district. Even better would be a day when one, two or all three have subs. I would offer a nice lunch and I truly believe after a full day in a parents shoes (who should be working from home) it would become clear that the current model is not effective in teaching our children.

    1. Amen to this. Parent of a 1st and 3rd grader here. Their live lessons are opposite of one another. The have different lunch and recess times so they can not even play with eachother or eat lunch together on their remote learning days. I am running back and forth from room to room making sure they are paying attention and not mindlessly playing another game on their school provided ipads- but there is only so much supervision I can offer while trying to do my work and keeping my third child busy. They have way too much unrestricted access on their iPads and I would never allow this if not for virtual learning. How am I supposed to send my child outside to get fresh air when I have to be inside monitoring my other child to make sure they are focusing on their lesson? Because trust me if I’m not monitoring them they are continually seeing how far they can test me. I worry so much about them. I can see changes in their mental health- they are misbehaving more than ever and they are so overstimulated by so much screen time. It’s too much. Something needs to change and we need transparency NOW. There must be more we can do to demand more for our children.

  13. UPDATE: For those that have visited the site today, I did not take the last post down nor was I asked to take it down. It simply disappeared along with the comments. After hours “on hold” with host GoDaddy, I was able to restore the site back to about 8 PM last night. There should be 42 comments but instead there are 33 comments. Please understand that I did NOT remove those 9 comments, the came in after the site restoration.

    Please review the existing comments and resend our missing comments or you are welcome to add a new comment.

    There are various theories as to why this post disappeared in the first place but no scientific proof :)

    I have a personal appeal — there remain some WordPress issues on the site that I was unable to resolve and I could use some help. If anyone has tech experience with WordPress sites, could you please call or text me at 610-644-6759. Thanks!

  14. These parents are asking for the public school administrators and publicly appointed school board members to respond to the needs of some of the members of the school community. They are using the only mechanisms they have, a letter, to convey their needs and a public display of their concerns in the form of yard signs. There is nothing disrespectful or divisive. Their children are hurting. Their families are in need.

    The public school in its current form is not supporting them. They love their district and hope that something will change. They support virtual instruction for those who chose it. I hope that their voices are heard but I am doubtful. I am doubtful because time and time again, the administration and by default, because they are not independent of administration, the board, use well informed public pleas from their constituents to pit group against group – parent against parent, parent against teacher, board against parent, teacher against parent, etc…

    By doing this, the administration is able to change the narrative so that the issues in question, almost almost the needs of the kids, are not what’s being discussed. Instead, the perceived faults of what ever group is questioning the administration are highlighted. We are seeing this now on this page.

    We are being asked to believe that by asking to support kids with the option of in-school instruction, these parents are “teacher bashing”, they are not being respectful, etc. Most importantly, they are “attacking” this top notch school district.

    I am issuing a plea to our community! Let’s make this about the KIDS. Let’s stop talking about the adults. Teachers have a powerful union who will ensure their needs are met. The administration has a board who is protecting them from the public and will ensure they don’t lose their jobs. #gusicksgottago

    The KIDS only have their parents who have no mechanism to ensure their needs are met. Instead of the carefully controlled school board meetings and communication process, let’s:
    1) Call for open school board meetings where the public can comment in real time via TEAMS.
    2) Call for school board meetings where all administrators and board members are on camera during the meeting so that they can fully participate.
    3) Call for open email comment process for all board meetings with consistent method for commenting – no more unpublished email addresses for comments and no more short windows of time for commenting during the meetings.
    4) Call for open public comment period on all agenda items at the beginning of each board meeting so that the public does not have to sit through hours of self-congratulatory pontification by the board and admin to ensure that their comments are heard by not only the board but the public.
    5) Call for all TESD community members to attend these meetings!!
    6) Call for anonymous surveys developed by parents, teachers and administrators to solicit feedback from the TESD community without the fear of retribution for comments made. KIDS in TESD come first!!

          1. I know that there are people who will watch this video and think that he is trying. But I think too little, too late. Where has he been for the last 11 months?

            I only watched it once. What exactly did he say that will improve the situation for all kids in the short term? Or in the long term? It seemed to me that he spent most of the video explaining why the district had to say no to the parents’ ideas (though he didn’t commit that to writing, the slides only had the parents ideas, not the district’s reasons why not). It is good that the district is going to survey parents next week, though we all know how District surveys go. Will they also survey the 100 + families who left the district this year? It is good that the district is identifying kids who would benefit from more days in school but it seems to me that there really aren’t any more kids coming into school with his new proposal. The kids with IEP’s who are already in school 4 days a week will be going into class instead of learning centers. None of this is good enough and I am frustrated.

            I think that the parents presented good ideas, and I hope that something comes of them.

            1. The “100+ families who left the district this year” should be addressed (particularly as the District is in the midst of the budget process). There’s no way of knowing how many of these families will return to the schools in the future yet “increasing enrollment” is routinely used in the budget process discussion.

  15. In the Gusick’s video we can hear the excuse, “the Chester County Health Department won’t let me do full in-person instruction”. That’s not entirely true. The decision on reopening lies with the school board; not the health department. Here is the health department’s guidance:

    If evidence exists that indicates improvements in COVID-19 cases, transmission, deaths, hospitalizations, etc., schools may consult with the Chester County Health Department about transitioning to in-person with less than 6 feet of physical distance (3 feet as a minimum).

    Has TESD consulted with the CC Health Department?
    If not, why not?
    What metrics is the district using to determine when they will consult?

    1. Has TESD consulted with the CC Health Department?
      If not, why not?
      What metrics is the district using to determine when they will consult?

      Excellent questions Keith – anyone know the answer? Perhaps a school board member or administrator could respond …?

      1. The decision on when to return to full in-person instruction is difficult; there is conflicting information. I’m not sure what decision I would make if I was a school director. That said, I wonder what school directors think. Will they follow CHOP advice and a growing number of articles that call for in-person instruction and vote to open schools? Will they read CC Health department guidance and interpret it strictly (6 feet minimum spacing)? How do they explain different guidance from a neighboring Health Department (3 feet is OK)? Will the teachers return if ordered or resort to labor action? The decision is too important and issues too nuanced to defer to this administration.

  16. Of interest is the Bucks County Health Department guidance:

    -Six foot distancing is not required for classroom seating – a lesser distance is acceptable if six feet is not achievable to meet the needs of students. There will be a minimum spacing of three feet, the social distancing recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a three-foot distance is associated with large reductions in infection via droplet spread of coughs and sneezes. Classroom configurations will be altered for maximal social distancing as feasible. For example, staggered rows of desks all facing the same direction, with limitations on face-to-face seating.

    Notice the inclusion of the “needs of the students” in the guidance. It’s no coincidence that several Bucks county schools are open for full in person instruction.

    1. Do you think it’s possible that the union negotiated that the 6 foot social distancing guideline must be followed in order for the teachers to return to in person learning and that they won’t continue to teach unless that guideline is maintained throughout the pandemic? It seems strange to me that the administration won’t even go there with this guideline yet we know it has been relaxed in other districts. I wonder if the union knew this was an impossible ask in our district and perhaps worked that in to their MOU agreement.

      1. No. There is no such thing as a secret clause in an MOU. However I’m sure the union president has discussed possible responses to a return to in person instruction.

  17. Late Friday afternoon, T/E parents received a message from the District which stated in part, the following:

    “We will be conducting a survey next week that will ask TESD families their thoughts on sending their children to school for in-person instruction should the health and safety guidance reduce physical distancing to less than six feet.”

  18. At this point, nearly one year of having our kids trying to learn virtually, the community should not have to do the heavy lifting. Politicians, including TESB should be doing the job they are elected to do–represent our children.

    The TE School Board are all political–they were elected and are affiliated with a political party. They know the local, state & federal politicians. Some aspire to join their ranks. Yet, what have THEY done to get our schools fully open? Have they petitioned their fellow politicians for vaccines?

    We’ll write our email letters. At the same time, we expect our representatives to do the same and have a sense of urgency to help our kids and open the schools. When they want to get elected, we hear their slogans, “it’s all about the kids”

    Prove it.
    Get a plan.
    Get our schools open.

    The following can be found on TESD website if interested in writing your local representative.

    https://www.tesd.net/educationisessential

    Thank you in advance for partnering with us as we advocate for increased vaccine availability and distribution to all education staff.

    Sample Letter for Families (customizable Word document)

    #EducationIsEssential Parent Advocate Flyer

    Contact Information – or Click here to find your legislator based on your address
    Governor Tom Wolf – https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/

    Federal Legislators

    Senator Bob Casey – https://www.casey.senate.gov/contact
    Senator Pat Toomey – https://www.toomey.senate.gov/contact/email-senator-toomey
    Representative Chrissy Houlahan – https://houlahan.house.gov/contact/
    Local Legislators

    Representative Melissa L. Shusterman – https://www.pahouse.com/Shusterman/Contact
    Representative Kristine C. Howard – https://www.pahouse.com/Howard/contact
    Senator Carolyn Comitta – https://www.pasenatorcomitta.com/contact/
    Senator Timothy Kearney – https://www.senatorkearney.com/contact/

    State Health Officials

    Pennsylvania Health Department – https://expressforms.pa.gov/apps/pa/health/contact-us
    Joanne Roth, Department of Health, Bureau of Emergency Preparedness & Response – joroth@pa.gov
    Cindy Findley, Pennsylvania Department of Health | Bureau of Communicable Diseases Director | Division of Immunizations – cfindley@pa.gov

  19. A draft of revised Covid guidance from the Chester County Health Department is being circulated to all CC and DC superintendents for comment. (listen at the 2:00:00 mark at the 2/3/2021 Delaware County supervisors meeting) https://www.delcopa.gov/council/video.html

    Parents might want to ask what changes are in the draft and whether the changes affect a return in-person instruction. (and why it wasn’t mentioned in Gusick’s video)

  20. As reported by the media…The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday urged that K-12 schools be reopened as soon as possible, and it offered a step-by-step plan to get students back in classrooms and to resolve a debate dividing communities across the nation.

    Under the new guidelines, teachers don’t need to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen, as long as recommended measures are followed, the CDC said, though it stressed that teachers should get vaccinated when supplies allow.

    “It is critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible, and remain open, to achieve the benefits of in-person learning and key support services,” the CDC said in the new guidelines. “All community members, students, families, teachers, and school staff should take actions to protect themselves and others where they live, work, learn, and play.”

    K-12 schools should be last to close when governments impose restrictions, and should be reopened ahead of nonessential businesses and activities, the CDC said.

    It was also reported that Chester County is not receiving their fair share of covid vaccines. As reported by the Phila Inquirer last May, our state senator at the time, helped a campaign donor secure a government, multimillion dollar contract for covid tests. The tests proved to be ineffective. Now, it’s fair to ask, what are our elected officials doing to help Chester County residents get vaccinated?

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