As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the National PTA Board of Directors has adopted a position statement on the reopening of public preK-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The statement calls for any decision to reopen schools to involve parents, families, students, educators, school employees, public health experts, health practitioners and community members in the planning, implementation and monitoring stages of reopening. It also calls on federal and state governments to provide the funding necessary to ensure that schools have the resources they need to reopen as safely and successfully as possible.
“Our utmost priority during this crisis continues to be the health and safety of all students, educators, school employees and families. Our association remains committed to advocating for our nation’s students, families and schools to ensure they have what they need during this challenging time,” said Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA. “National PTA believes that inclusive stakeholder engagement is essential for effective decision making and successful implementation of school reopening plans, particularly engagement with parents and students to address unique family needs. We also need significant, immediate and continuing federal and state funding as many of our nation’s school districts are already working without the resources they need to provide an equitable education to all students, and recovery from the pandemic is an added strain.”
National PTA’s position is that plans for reopening must incorporate the best available science and expertise of infectious disease doctors and health practitioners. Plans shall also strictly follow the most up to date Center for Disease Control guidelines, including but not limited to reasonable social distancing, rigorous sanitizing processes and viral screening and testing protocols. The association recognizes that there will not be a one-size fits all process for the reopening of schools.
As outlined in the position statement, effective stakeholder engagement must be inclusive, transparent, provide multiple opportunities for input and include meaningful, clear and concise communication. National PTA recommends that all information and protocols be disseminated to parents, families, students and communities, following current best practices for family and student engagement. The association urges that all communications must be accessible to parents with disabilities and available in other languages.
As also included in the position statement, National PTA strongly supports a robust federal investment to address the impact of budget cuts on public schools and to help pay for the costs for schools to reopen safely and successfully. Recent cost-analyses by national education groups have demonstrated the urgent need for congressional action to ensure schools have what they need to operate safe and healthy environments and provide high-quality teaching and learning. National PTA urges Congress to provide at least $175 billion in funding for preK-12 education in the next COVID-19 relief package. These resources need to be provided now so that schools can begin planning and preparing to reopen in the fall.
“Our public education system is the major vehicle for perpetuating the basic values of a democratic system of government. However, our public schools have been woefully under-resourced for decades,” added Boggs. “Investments in our public education system are more critical now than ever before. Investments must be made immediately to ensure every public school has the proper resources to help every child learn, grow and reach their fullest potential while keeping them safe and healthy.”
In addition to the position statement on reopening of public preK-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year, the National PTA Board of Directors also adopted a position statement in April on Distance and Remote Learning for K12 Students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, National PTA launched a comprehensive webpage at PTA.org/COVID-19 with resources, tools and information to support families and educators amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The association has also focused several episodes of its Notes from the Backpack podcast on topics of concern for families due to COVID-19. Additionally, National PTA is granting $1.5M to PTAs across the country to help meet critical needs of students, families, teachers and schools due to the virus.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on and presented many challenges for families and schools,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “National PTA and PTAs across the country remain committed to supporting students, families and schools in this time of crisis.”