Is in-person learning right for every community?

Everyone agrees children learn best in the classroom, but not every community is convinced it can  be done safely when COVID-19 cases are growing within their borders. 

“You know, for decades, they’ve been telling us what to do, micromanaging us, giving us regulations. Now all of a sudden, they say, “well, you want local control. You want it, we’ll give it to you; manage this thing,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. 

 Koocher and Dr. Mary Beth Miotto, vice president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, joined The Codcast to talk about why they believe in-person learning may be the best way to go, but not with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Koocher says that school districts have embraced their sudden newfound autonomy, making the best decisions they can based off of the evidence they have. “But sometimes, it flies in the face of people’s other agendas besides just public health,” he said.  

The backdrop is a state where there are over 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily. On Friday, November 6, Gov. Charlie Baker released new metrics that downgraded the risk of COVID-19 in most communities and issued new guidance suggesting hands-on teaching is safe even in hot-spot areas. 

Some union officials and parents are worried about sending their kids to school with community-based cases increasing, and have pushed back. Koocher lauded Baker’s measured approach, but said that school committees have to take these increasing numbers into account week to week.  

“It looks like we could be back to where we were in May and June, and that’s a bit frightening. And I think that even changes the discussion from one we would have had last Friday,” he said.  

Miotto backed Baker the day the new guidance was issued. She says it’s safe to reopen schools. 

While Baker, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, and Department of Secondary and Elementary CommissionerJeff Riley say they’re giving districts independence, Riley is also saying that school districts that aren’t properly assessing data and continue to remain remote may be audited, as East Longmeadowand Watertown recently were.

Koocher said his organization isn’t taking those threats that seriously. “This was a statement that the department had to make to show that we’re prepared to take action, even though they don’t have the authority to do so,” he said. 

Koocher said the focus should instead be on districts where health metrics may not be the reason why schools are not reopening in-person.  

“If the unions refuse to go back into school because their teachers don’t want to go back into school, and it’s not a health reason, if you can find illegitimacy in those arguments, then the state has some authority in coming in and giving a directive,” he said. 

For Miotto, the best way forward would be to educate families about the health data–something she said is lacking. She says she hears “fear” when she talks to Worcester families in her daily job as a pediatrician.  

 “There is a lot of information, and we need to do better at talking about good data,” she said, noting that the mental health of children at home is deteriorating without the services in-school learning provides. “We have more admissions in some hospitals forsuicide attempts in children than for COVID,” said Miotto.  

 Some families with essential or low-income workers also don’t have the privilege of parents staying at home with their kids to guide their online learning. One parent she knows doesn’t have the bandwidth to sit with her second grader, who has ADHD, all day.  

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

The operator of Faneuil Hall Marketplace disputes the city of Boston’s claim that it has provided no financial relief to its merchants.

Gov. Charlie Baker implores Massachusetts residents to “get serious” about stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The Department of Correction orders a second round of universal testing for COVID-19 at state prisons after cases spike at two facilities. Also: COVID-19 cases rise at MCI-Concord from 3 to 33.

Gov. Charlie Baker takes no stance on abortion amendment, but says the way it was passed violated a pledge by legislative leaders not to do policy in the budget.

Cedric Cromwell, chair of the Wampanoag Mashpee Tribe, is arrested on extortion charges related to proposed Taunton casino.

Opinion: Erin Leahy and Ryan Daulton of Act on Mass say Massachusetts is a participatory democracy in name only….Republican Anthony Amore offers three ways to make elections fairer. …Dr. Joe Kvedar offers up his tip-sheet for pending telemedicine legislation on Beacon Hill. …Addie Swartz of reacHIRE says the pandemic has created an employment “she-cession.”

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Some Republican activists are calling for a change in party leadership, after the GOP’s small minority on Beacon Hill shrinks even further in the November election. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Three more House employees who were recently at the State House test positive for COVID-19. Two state representatives previously said they tested positive after attending the House budget debate in person. (MassLive)

Legislators say passing a bill that would give undocumented immigrants—who often work essential jobs—driver’s licenses should pass. (GBH) CommonWealth covered the issue back in July.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been named chair of Climate Mayors, a national organization of municipal leaders focused on climate change. (Boston Globe)

Lynn appropriates $5.5 million to repair blocked-off ventilation systems in school buildings. (Daily Item)

A Cohasset couple faces a $500 fine after police say there was a large gathering of kids at the family’s house in violation of COVID-19 social distancing rules. (Patriot Ledger)

The New Bedford City Council passes a 10 percent pay cut for non-resident city employees. (Standard-Times) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Cambridge-based Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, based on results so far from its ongoing drug trial. (New York Times

Black and Latino communities in the state, which have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19, are also wary of a potential vaccine because of distrust of the medical community. (Boston Globe)

US hits 11 million coronavirus cases, adding the latest million in a week. (NPR) Massachusetts reports nearly 5,000 cases over the weekend. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Massachusetts House budget proposal would expand dental coverage for MassHealth patients. (The Salem News)

A story on Saturday said Gov. Charlie Baker would meet with five other Northeastern governors this weekend to discuss potential new COVID-19 restrictions in an emergency confab called by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (NJ.com) The Boston Herald says that Baker skipped the summit.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

When it comes to the US standoff with Iran, President Trump is poised to leave President-elect Biden with a crisis that is “worse, by nearly every measure” than when he took office four years ago. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

The Trump campaign has dramatically pared back its federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania. Democrats say the much narrower focus to the litigation has no potential of changing the outcome. (Washington Post)

President Trump has spent years lodging false claims of voter fraud, groundwork that he is now using to cast doubt over the presidential election he lost. (New York Times

They may have recaptured the White House, but Democrats are badly split on the best path forward. (Boston Globe) 

USA Today has an explainer of how the Electoral College works. 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Marriott Copley Place, Boston’s second largest hotel, announced that it has terminated half its staff. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

The Globe checks in with three Massachusetts teachers to see how online instruction is going. 

ARTS/CULTURE

The latest Massachusetts Cultural Council survey finds arts and cultural organizations have lost $483 million during the pandemic, while working artists lost $20 million personal income. (Telegram & Gazette)

Following up on a failed vote at a special town meeting in Chatham on a plan to save the historic Monomoy Theatre, the theatre’s owner has filed applications to demolish five of the seven structures in the theater complex. (Cape Cod Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

An industrial site in Beverly has been undergoing a cleanup for decades, but may still be contributing dangerous levels of chemicals to the groundwater, raising concerns about the impacts on neighbors. (The Salem News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Over 12 years, the Springfield police paid nearly $5 million to settle allegations of police misconduct, and some are questioning whether Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood is the right person to fix the department’s problems. The department has a long history of misconduct, civil rights violations and lawsuits. (MassLive)

Republican state Sen. Ryan Fattman is calling for a legislative oversight hearing to examine the non-profit status of the Massachusetts Bail Fund. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias is leaving the publication to write on his own via Substack — and he has some criticisms to share about “young-college-graduate bubble” that sets the tone at many digital media ventures as well as some legacy publications. (The Atlantic

Media critic Dan Kennedy faults the New York Times for citing Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union, without disclosing her organization’s ties to the Walton family. (Media Nation)