Pattye Benson

Community Matters

What is the Reopening Plan for T/E Schools — Kids Need to Come First!

There’s an important school board meeting tonight at 7:30 PM – on the agenda, a discussion on updated Chester County Health Department guidance for the reopening of schools. Priority discussion topics include the District’s “School Instructional Model Plan” – How (and when) will the District fully open schools? (For agenda and instructions on submitting questions and viewing the meeting, click here.)

Many parents are pushing for a return to full in-person learning and data certainly supports the need. There is no argument on the many benefits of resuming full in-person learning — educational, developmental, emotional, and mental health needs, especially for the younger students. It is my understanding that most who support full in-person learning support the virtual model continuing for those not wishing to return to school.  If the District were to move to a full in-person model, presumably the current hybrid option would no longer exist.

According to a national survey by state in Education Week, updated Feb. 19, Gov. Tom Wolf has lifted a ban on all in-person school extracurricular activities and K-12 school sports. The guidance from the state level allows individual school districts to decide whether they will use in-person or remote instruction, or a mix of both.

Although the debate on whether to fully reopen schools should be science based, the issue has sadly taken on a decidedly political spin … pitting parents against parents, parents against teachers, etc.  Everyone wants what is best for the kids, but the kids only have their parents to ensure their needs are met.

Without question, kids (and teachers) deserve safety and parents deserve to have schools that are open, and safe. Neighboring school districts have successfully increased in-person learning, can that safely happen now in T/E?

There are many questions about fully reopening District schools, here’s a few of mine:

  • Will all teachers be vaccinated before the schools open for full in-person learning? If so, that process is completely depended on availability of vaccines.
  • Will the community transmission rates impact reopening of schools? Studies have suggested that schools do not drive community transmission.
  • Is 3-foot socially distanced model acceptable to reopen schools or must 6 feet of physical distance between students, staff, and faculty in school buildings be maintained?
  • Do the District schools have adequate ventilation?
  • Who exactly makes the decision to fully reopen the schools – the administration or the school board?
  • Where does the District teachers union TEEA stand on the fully reopening of schools?
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  1. I am all for reopening schools. I am not in favor of 3-foot social distance in the classroom. How can the students social distance on a school bus. I feel that is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

  2. This is interesting because I saw a sign in my neighbors yard this morning that reads

    Open TE Schools Now

    I thought it sounded a little angry and fed up. Is there a group that is sponsoring a drive to open the schools? Who sponsored the signs?

    1. There is a private Facebook group for T/E parents who support in-person learning and giving parents a choice. The group organized and raised funding for the signs — in a short period, the group now has over 750 members.

  3. You are so right about this issue pitting parents against parents. I believe that the positives for my children (3rd and 5th graders) to be in school full time far outweigh the risks. Why should I feel vilified by some parents for my views? I completely support parents who choose to keep their children home w/virtual learning. Why can’t we have a choice?

  4. These poor kids need to be in school. Even if they go just 4 full days a week and everyone is home on Wednesday so they can clean the school. This is ridiculous.Other school districts/ private schools have been doing this for months with little to no issues.

  5. Schools aren’t opening because of The Prima Donna Teachers Union in TE. Although they have an inflated view of their importance, even more pertinent , they have the Memo of Understanding that the Board signed off on giving them all the power on when TE schools will reopen. The 750 member group of parents is like a fly buzzing around their heads. Annoying but nothing that will make them do what they don’t want to do.

      1. Me,

        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.”

        1. If you are not a teacher, I wonder how you can say that some teachers are “underutilized”? You don’t know what their job responsibilities entail pre-COVID or now.

          1. Me,

            If you know what physical ex teachers, art teachers, nurses, librarians etc. are doing, please enlighten us. Please offer proof and/or evidence and I will respectfully rethink my position. Otherwise, teachers should not receive special favor because they have political power and influence.

            They slow play getting the schools open but they can’t get benefits approved fast enough for themselves.

            1. I think it’s funny that you are spewing “information” that is not based on facts. You clearly hate the teachers and the union, but I wonder what you would think if someone with no background in your field was hatefully spewing misinformation about your job?

              1. Me,

                What information are any of us “spewing” that isn’t fact?

                You are doing what you are accusing me of doing.

                Please provide evidence that nurses, physical education, librarians, computer science and art teachers are not underutilized.

  6. I question whether TE can keep the recommendation of distance, given their underestimating enrollments for years. Some grades will struggle to keep a 3 foot distance in class, forget the hallways.

    Private schools have done a great job of school during Covid, due to their limited enrollments.

  7. The school sent a message asking for help getting vaccines to teachers with a letter campaign. How do the teachers get vaccines now? I read it is hard to get vaccines in Chester County even if you qualify. Do school districts have a way to help teachers access the vaccine?

    1. Steve, that’s an excellent question. Also, I’m sure that the District has teachers who live outside of Chester County, which may compound the vaccine distribution situation. Or — wonder if the plan is to vaccinate onsite in the District? What is the District’s criteria for the order of vaccinating the teachers? Age? underlying conditions? And what about the District aides? They are not part of the teachers union, but shouldn’t they also be vaccinated? Jeez, lots of questions.

      1. Advancing teachers to the front of the line brings in questions of equity. What makes a teacher who performs a valuable service to our children more important than the supermarket employee who also performs a valuable service? Should teachers bump those 75 or older who are 20x to 100x more likely to die if infected? Or law enforcement or firefighters? Or any of the other people in group 1A or 1B?

        1. Agree Keith. There is much discussion about the vaccine for teachers but shouldn’t the aides, paras, etc. have the same consideration. Albeit those individuals are not part of teachers union. There are some that suggest that teachers should be in the 1A.1B group — but you are right, how is the equity decided. As the parent of a high risk OBG surgeon who is delivering babies of mothers with covid (while wearing full hazmat gear), there is a definite difference.

          1. Agree with the moderator and Keith Knauss. Teachers should not be favored or prioritized because of their profession. There is reason to be concerned about teachers who are elderly or have comorbidities. But if these groups are prioritized for the vaccine in the general population — as they arguably should be, before favoring any particular profession — at-risk teachers will be protected, without allocating doses to young, healthy teachers at the expense of vulnerable fellow citizens.

            1. I just received updated information from Dr. Towle regarding the District’s prioritization of covid-19 vaccinations for staff directing me to and I thank her. This information, reads in part as follows:

              One of our primary goals is to see education workers at all levels placed in the 1A priority group during the vaccination rollout. All of our staff members, from bus drivers to teachers to instructional aides to cafeteria and custodial workers, play a critical role in educating our students and maintaining the operation of our schools. In addition to increasing eligibility for the vaccine, we are asking our legislators to assist in increasing the vaccine supply for our county and our school district. Currently, there are not enough vaccines available to vaccinate all T/E staff members who wish to receive one. Finally, TESD is willing and able to offer our facilities as vaccination sites – both for our own staff members and the community at large. We are simply waiting for the opportunity to do so.

              This information clarifies and answers many of my questions. I’m glad to know that all staff will be treated equitably – teachers, bus drivers, aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, etc. by the District. And that the District facilities are offered for vaccinations.

      2. My twenty something daughter lives in Chester County but works in Montgomery County for an agency as a behavioral therapist for children with autism. Her agency applied with Monco Dept of Health to have their employees be included in Group 1a as they are in and out of homes, schools, daycares on a daily basis. She received her first shot in January and her second last week.

        So it doesn’t matter where you live but where you work. If a teacher/aide lives outside of Chester County and they don’t qualify in their county, maybe TESD has to request their employees be included whatever group is currently being vaccinated in Chester County. I would think that the “Pandemic Response Team” in TE would be aware of these rules and procedures.

        1. I have to be honest—I find that infuriating. 20-somethings without health conditions should not be getting vaccinating unless they are doctors or medical professionals or workers in nursing homes.

          The elderly and those with serious health conditions who work in exposed occupations should come before any healthy 20-year olds.

  8. In watching the meeting, school board president Michelle Burger announced that there will be NO vote taken tonight in regards to the reopening of schools. However, she did say that next Monday night (Mar. 1) there will be a special in-depth school board meeting to specifically discuss that topic.

  9. Did everyone see the promo video at the beginning of tonight’s school board meeting? Was that supposed to make us feel better?

    1. Here we go again! This is unlike ANY other comparable district. They really don’t care what the public has to say. #gusicksgottago

      Let’s spend hours talking about things schools up and down the mainline have already figured out and not talk about the what the KIDS need!! Also, let’s not allow for dynamic public comment. Why do we need to hear from the community? What are the bets on opening this year? How about next year?

      1. After the meeting last night, some community members commented on Facebook about how the board is keeping the administration from making decisions by requiring them to adhere to the CCHD guidance. Many of you readers have been following the district through more than this pandemic so you know that our board does not act in opposition to the administration and more often than not follows them lock step – regardless of reason or science.

        I urge the community to focus their frustration on the people who are actually making the decisions, the so called professionals – the administration. Of course, the board is complicit but Rich Gusick and team are calling the shots. The way you reinstate the quality you expect in this formally leading school district is to disrupt the entrenched leadership in the central office. Until this is done, your kids are going to suffer.

        #gusicksgottago NOW! That would be an effective yard sign. Maybe if we saw hundreds of Gusick’s Gotta Go NOW signs peppering the yards in T/E the kids would be back in school. Put pressure on the person standing in the way of change! The board will follow.

        I agree that if the board had any backbone at all, if they actually listened to their constituents and if they stopped villianizing anyone who spoke out in contrast to the administration things would be different.

        Lastly, the teachers will be okay no matter what happens. They have the largest political machine behind them lobbying for their needs. The KIDS do not!!!

        1. Well said.

          We feel your frustration. Shame TESB does not.
          No Plan, No sense of urgency. Why?

          Meanwhile, our kids suffer.

          You get what you vote for.

          1. Completely agree…you get what you vote for.


            In the last couple of elections TE voters voted down ballot as to how they felt about national and state elections, not a logical approach.

            It’s easier at the local level to research and even talk to the candidates to understand if they align with your values and ideas. Learn about the person running for the position, not just look at letter after their name!

            I’m not saying it would completely eliminate the mess that TESD is in but it would help.

            1. Good advice. Thought TE had residents would research candidates who would be running their schools.

              Instead, a large number voted with their emotions. Hating the” Orangeman” in the White House allowed local candidates to get elected without being vetted resulting in….as you would say, the mess TE is in.

              Unfortunately, our students have had to pay the price.

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