Sarah Lewis, a science teacher at Wilton High School, asked us to share the statement she hopes to make at this evening’s Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 7:15 p.m. via a webinar on Zoom (find the agenda online).

To the Editor:

To begin with, I want to be clear that I would like nothing more than to begin this year, like last year, in the classroom with my students engaged in collaborative scientific inquiries and investigations. While the district’s plan, as it stands, attempts to get us back in the classroom, I believe there are too many unaddressed issues to vote for it at present. Specifically, it is too high level and lacking in detail in both implementation and cost, and doesn’t address negative outcomes that we have already begun to see around the country.

In regard to the lack of detail of the current reopening plan:  The plan that was presented on July 30 only barely begins to identify the myriad details of how classroom teaching could be implemented in either option/scenario involving any in-person instruction. Without having significantly more details of the plan laid out and clarified beyond the generalizations currently made, we cannot begin to understand the risk/reward comparison that the BOE is tasked with making.

In regard to cost to the district:  The costs to the district in order to implement an effective hybrid approach to learning will be monumental without any chance (in my opinion) of coming close to the standard of education that we pride ourselves in upholding. These costs include both personnel needs mentioned last week as well as technology needs to teach simultaneous remote and in-person lessons. Neither of these needs has been addressed in detail, and I believe the current proposal lacks both a large amount of physical hardware and an allotment of sufficient training of staff and students to utilize the technology. Also not detailed in the plans is the additional time needed after adequately retrofitting individual classrooms to test the new systems for inevitable issues that will require workarounds prior to implementing lessons to students. (I can only speak for every classroom at WHS, all of which have a different set of needs and obstacles given the non-uniform layout of items such as smart boards, computer docking, microphones, extra monitors, etc.)

In regard to social-emotional needs:  The discussion around the mental well-being of students and teachers in any in-person scenario has not addressed the stress of attempting to learn or work in an environment where you must be fearful of every person around you. Nor has the discussion focused on the stigma, guilt, and possible permanent psychological damage borne by the individuals who inadvertently bring the virus into the school and sicken, or potentially cause the death of, a peer or teacher. This a burden that we cannot and should not ask anyone to bear.

Given the issues mentioned, my plea to the BOE is as follows:  Remote learning is an extraordinarily difficult task for teachers, students and the community, but I argue it is the only option we can safely pursue in this early phase of scientific understanding of COVID-19. Let the schools return initially in a remote setting until we have a viable plan that allows us to be safe while still providing the excellent education that we want to continue to give.

I love my WHS family. Please let me keep them safe.

Sarah Lewis