After working on a Sunday to answer hundreds of emails about the pending reopening of schools, Superintendent William Burkhead decided to pen an open letter to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Gov. Charlie Baker, and the state Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey Riley. Over the course of 3-pages, Burkhead strongly urged his colleagues in the educational sector to not just ask the "tough questions", but to demand answers from state executives in regard to the need for a comprehensive plan for reopening schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tweeted Letter
Posted on Twitter this past Tuesday, August 11, Burkhead expressed concern about the effect remote learning may have on elementary school students. Pointing out the low rate of transmission in the state while also encouraging other local leaders to check their own local data in regard to their own COVID-19 data, Burkhead asserted that the numbers seem to be conducive to reopening in person, at least on some level. Moreover, he went on to express concern about students working with other unknown students and teachers remotely, and also requested the specific public health metrics, in terms of when schools are safe to reopen and when they are deemed too risky to remain in operation.
Particularly, Burkhead asserts that the students who continue to learn remotely are at risk for experiencing an increased level of trauma, a loss of social interaction with their peers, social-emotional deprivation, and more. Additionally, he also recognized that bringing teachers back to school and putting the faculty at risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying would also leave blood on their hands. Therefore, he is essentially asserting that he feels like he is in a no-win situation. Either way, Burkhead was not just placing the blame on Baker, but he was also shaming other superintendents and leaders in the educational community for not pushing harder for these answers themselves.
The Bottom Line
In short, it seems that the purpose of Burkhead's letter was meant to point out that superintendents, such as him, are being forced into a situation in which they are being set up to get blamed for what is to come either way. He feels that the new restrictions and warnings were written in such a way that allows Baker to skirt accountability while leaving educational leaders to make impossible decisions during unprecedented times with little to no backing or guidance. He also went on to call for teachers, parents, caregivers, and other community members to speak up and play a more active role in how these matters are being handled moving forward.