As the Chair of the Dover Sherborn Regional School Committee I wish to clarify the purpose and effect of our vote in support of a hybrid return to school. The Region voted in favor of the hybrid model that was presented at the Joint School Committee on August 11, but with an amendment that allows Middle and High School educators to teach remotely if they are unable to teach in person due to medical or childcare circumstances that would make them eligible for partially paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA). We believe that our amendment is in the best interests of our students, families, and the Regional School budget because it enables the middle and high schools to ensure continued access to its experienced and exceptional teaching staff and to the highest quality of education despite the challenges of this pandemic. The amendment to the hybrid model applies only to the high school and the middle school and not to the elementary schools because (1)the needs of the teachers and students in the elementary schools are different; and (2) remote teaching opportunities will be available to elementary school teachers through Chickering, Pine Hill, and DSMS remote learning options; not the case at the High School.
With regard to teachers who are eligible for a leave of absence from in-person teaching, the district is faced with a choice: hire replacements (from an extremely limited pool of qualified substitutes) or allow eligible educators to teach the in-person sections of their classes remotely, thus alleviating the need for leave. We are faced with the reality that our children will either have substitute teachers who are less qualified than our own teaching staff, or be instructed by an experienced teacher, albeit remotely. In many cases, the District will also be liable for salaries and benefits paid to educators accessing Family and Medical leave. These are the realities of education during a global pandemic.
In analyzing the best choice for the Region, the Committee considered the unique characteristics of the Dover Sherborn Regional High School. We are a small school of about 680 students in four grades, with small class sizes and a broad range of specialized and/or “singleton” (single section) classes. This is one of the reasons that our high school is consistently rated as one of the top five in Massachusetts. Given the characteristics of our schools, the current circumstances, and the knowledge instruction may change from hybrid to remote/in-person, we believe our amendment enables students to benefit from the consistency of a DSHS teacher. We strongly believe that our students are better off learning from their DS educator who is teaching remotely than from a substitute teacher who is in-person; and we believe that our amendment ensures the continuation of the high quality of education for which our schools are known.
While there are humanistic and ethical reasons that support our decision, as Regional School Committee members, it is our duty to do what is in the best educational interests of our students, and is most fair to our taxpayers and the community. In this case, the best interests of students at the Region are served by learning from the qualified, seasoned faculty at our school, even if their personal circumstances dictate that they must work remotely at this time.
Yours in service,
Maggie Charron, Chair
Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee