MELROSE, MA — The teachers' union representing some 450 Melrose Public Schools educators is advocating for the district to continue remote learning until regular testing is implemented in the city.
The Melrose Education Association said COVID-19 metrics are higher than the levels agreed upon for in-person learning in a memorandum of agreement between the teachers and district signed before students returned to class in October.
The union has filed a grievance alleging the district is in violation of that agreement, School Committee Chairman Ed O'Connell told Patch.
"The MEA will continue to advocate for remote learning for all until ongoing, regular testing is implemented in Melrose," the union said in a statement. "Ongoing, regular testing will help to protect students and their families, staff and their families, and the community as a whole."
Melrose is in remote learning this week as in-person students and staff get tested. They are scheduled to go back to class Monday, Jan. 11.
In response to the union's statement, Superintendent Julie Kukenberger told Patch in-person learning "must remain an option" and the district is working on increasing in-person and live/synchronous learning for students. Kukenberger also said the district is "aggressively exploring various testing options" and will have an update on testing at the Jan. 12 School Committee meeting.
"I remain confident in our multi-pronged risk-mitigating protocols and practices which have been effective when students and staff are in-person," Kukenberger said. She also praised the efforts of teachers and students using the remote learning model.
The union's statement comes two weeks after it submitted a letter to Patch detailing concerns with what it called unsafe policies and buildings.
The union's statement and Kukenberger's response are below:
Melrose educators remain steadfast in our desire to be fully in person with our students. However, we are in the middle of a surge with the potential for positive cases to continue rising given the recent holiday season and new strain of the virus. Additionally, metric thresholds in the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) that ratified with both the Melrose School Committee and the union need to be honored. While the MEA appreciates the effort to test everyone who is scheduled to be learning and teaching in person as early as January 11, this one data point does not account for positive cases that will begin to surface in the next week or so. The MEA will continue to advocate for remote learning for all until ongoing, regular testing is implemented in Melrose. Ongoing, regular testing will help to protect students and their families, staff and their families, and the community as a whole.
I agree with MEA that in-person learning is an essential service and must continue to be an option for students and families who have chosen these models. Additionally, I continued to be amazed by the outstanding work of our MDLA educators and students. In addition, we are aggressively exploring various testing options as an added risk-mitigating layer so that we can both maintain our current in-person learning models while also developing plans to increase access to in-person and live/synchronous experiences for students. I am preparing a testing update to be shared publicly at the next School Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 12th at 7:00 PM.