Members of Pelham Teachers’ Association to hold Red for Ed protests over hybrid reopening plan


Members of the Pelham Teachers’ Association will be wearing Red for Ed on the first day of school Thursday and on the first day of hybrid learning, which will be as early as Monday, in protest of the current reopening model.

Teachers across the district agreed last Tuesday to join in the demonstration, and administrators, clerical workers and custodial staff members have been invited to join, said PTA President Mark Finegan. The color was chosen because it represents national solidarity among teachers, and Finegan said that “it’s a positive sign also, because it’s Red for Ed.”

Hours after the teachers announced their protest, Pelham Superintendent Cheryl Champ emailed parents and students that school will be virtual on Thursday and Friday due to large student social gatherings that posed a threat to the health of the community.

Finegan cited three main reasons for the protest.

Although all faculty members recognize the “incredible” amount of time, money and effort spent creating the current hybrid model, Finegan said that teachers feel that the district is simply not ready for reopening.

“It’s not so much that we’re in a physical place that we’re not ready,” he said. While other school districts have opted for a “phased opening” plan by starting the school year entirely virtually before easing students and staff into in-person learning, launching straight into the hybrid plan will give both students and teachers a “crushing amount of information… to deal with on the first day,” he said.

Before even starting school, Finegan said, the superintendent and board of education have made it known that they are anticipating various logistical issues to arise, increasing unease about the current plan.

The association’s second concern over the hybrid plan is that teachers have been told that if the district moves to a complete distance learning model, staff will be mandated to teach virtual classes from the school buildings.

“If we’re in a virtual world, that means that we’ve had an outbreak of some kind, and we’ve had to close the school down for kids,” Finegan said. “So why are we having faculty come in if there is an outbreak?”

In addition, teachers who are parents of young children will be unable to find adequate childcare. Finegan said the district is hoping to partner with the Pelham Recreation Department to provide childcare for district staff members, but a clear solution has not yet been proposed.

The third main policy that teachers will be protesting tomorrow is what Finegan describes as an issue of “humanity.” Some teachers, he said, have had to formally request medical leave because their doctors have advised that a school environment would be unsafe for them due to various illnesses and conditions. Finegan specified that staff members are not asking to take time off from work but to teach their classes virtually from home. “The district has denied every single request from our teachers,” he said.

Finegan spoke to each of the teachers who requested leave and emphasized that every teacher wants to return to their normal work environment as soon as possible, “but it’s so dangerous.”

“If we’re in the middle of a once-in-an-every-hundred-years pandemic and we can’t make allowances for people who have serious illnesses,” he said, “we just wonder, ‘Where is the humanity in that?’”

Finegan acknowledged the necessity to provide students with a valuable education and said that he knows the board of education has been working to give students the best experience possible.

No teachers have openly opposed the nature of the demonstration, so Finegan anticipates that most staff members will be displaying at least an accent of Red for Ed on the first day of the school.