Coronavirus Update - March 20, 2020 A Message to Members from Larry Purtill
I know how busy you are, and I want to thank you for your continued dedication. Things are changing exponentially as we move through each day. As we close out the first week, a reminder that all updates and helpful links and resources can be found here on our Coronavirus response page: www.neari.org/covid-19.
Local presidents came together last night (March 19) for a conference call with me, Bob, NEARI UniServs and staff to review the week and discuss what is to come in the next week or two.
First, two principles that must guide all our decisions going forward during this crisis:
- Our number one priority continues to be the health and safety of our members and our students.
- Keeping our members employed and paid is paramount. We must do the best we can and work together.
We will continue to protect collective bargaining, but to achieve our major goal here, we will need patience and flexibility. I understand the challenge when there is so much anxiety and uncertainty, but we can do this. (View NEARI Statement of Action)
The projections on those exposed and who have the virus here in Rhode Island is going to increase dramatically in the next week to 10 days as Coronavirus testing continues.
The Governor has closed schools with distance learning to begin this Monday, March 23 through Friday April 3. Then the plan will be re-evaluated. Just a reminder, these count as school days and do not have to be made up.
Governor Raimondo has asked that we do everything we can to make this work.
She does not want our members unemployed any more than we do! She knows this is not an ideal learning or teaching situation, but we need to give it all we have and do the best possible job.
Employment and Safety
I know some teachers and ESP – especially ESP – are being told to return to school buildings and campuses despite the call to close schools. If the building is cleaned and safe and social distancing can be maintained, we want you working and paid.
I understand the equity and fairness issue here. And that is something we need to address, but right now is not that time. Please continue to communicate with your local presidents about any issues and concerns. We have asked presidents to log these issues and bring them to our next conference call, so that we can address them and respond.
Additionally, UniServ staff are in constant contact with local presidents.
I don’t need to tell you how important it is, in these anxious times, for students to have some continuity and familiarity in their lives. You will continue to play a vital role in the mental health of Rhode Island’s children. Your efforts are critical, and I thank you for them.
Please remember self-care! The care and comfort of yourself and your family is equally important. Adjust your fitness routine, go on family walks, schedule a video conference with family and friends, take up yoga, download that meditation app you’ve been putting off.
The outbreak of Coronavirus COVID-19, self-quarantining, and social distancing is stressful and can feel overwhelming. It can feel isolating too. Remember to try and stay connected and manage any anxiety. If you need to talk to a professional, you can get connected to a provider through www.bhlink.org.
We have asked that all K-12 and higher ed evaluations be suspended for the remainder of the school year/semester. We are aware and understand the concern for those who may have completed their evals already this year or have done observations and do not want to lose all their work. Give us some time; the staff is working on a plan. This is one of many issues where, while difficult, patience is needed.
All standardized testing is postponed for now. The College Board has cancelled the May 2 SAT and are considering online AP tests. The Commissioner made this announcement Wednesday in her briefing with superintendents. The Governor and her staff have been in constant contact and reach out to us and respond immediately to our concerns.
There is going to be an ongoing need for professional development and NEARI’s PD committee will be meeting virtually next week to address needs.
We are doing our best to ensure all communication channels are open. Please keep a running list of issues that arise and pass them on to your presidents. Presidents: keep in contact with your UniServs.
All members – please add the following two emails to your contacts, so that our messages reach your inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Please check on colleagues to ensure they are receiving notices, anyone not receiving notices should email Stephanie Mandeville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check our website and social media platforms often.
Anticipate another message on Sunday and we will tentatively schedule another call for presidents on Tuesday, March 24 to check in and see how things are progressing and hear any issues and concerns.
This is not ideal, I know. But I have seen the posts from our members on social media and others in the community and I see support and positivity.
Let’s work together. Let’s use each other as sounding boards instead of social media. Keep your issues and frustrations flowing up to NEARI so we can respond.
Saying thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you for all you have contributed to this “new normal” thus far and moving forward. This global pandemic is the most severe crisis and challenge many of us will face. Your leadership, patience and dedication in these trying times is crucial. Thank you again.
We. Can. Do. This.