All this week, we'll be exploring topics related to K-12 education during a pandemic. We'll be talking with students, teachers, superintendents and education experts about what they think learning in the fall should look like.

Monday night's show explores reopening schools from two different perspectives.

First, we heard from Jennifer Infurna, a parent of three kids in the Winchester Public School system. She's in favor of full-time, in-person learning in the fall.

But Cambridge Public Schools fifth-grade teacher Rose Levine says that heading back to the classroom next month could be a disaster.


Jennifer Infurna - 1:56
Rose Levine - 13:49

Cambridge Public Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Winchester Public School Superintendent Dr. Judy Evans sent the following statement to WGBH News in response to the show:

"As much as all of us would like to return to school in full all together, this is not possible. We collected over a 1000 very specific feedback surveys on distance learning from last spring and have prepared a robust program for the fall for both full remote and hybrid programs.

Here is the e-mail I sent to parents on this topic:

'I am writing to provide an update on the progress of plans to return to school in September. As many of you know, we looked closely at all options for our return to school, including a full in-person return (with 3 feet of personal space, desks facing front, full masks), a hybrid model (with 50% of students in school and the other 50% working remotely), and a full remote model. I know everyone is anxious to learn more about the substance of these plans, and I will present my recommendations to the School Committee for review next Tuesday. Please know we have been working very hard to develop a plan that is as complete and academically robust as possible. I also recognize that many families and staff members hold very different perspectives on which option is best and that the final choices will leave many unhappy. In the end, I will only be able to recommend the choice of a hybrid return and a full remote options for School Committee consideration. I hope that we can all return to full in-person learning some time this academic year if the spread of illness permits it. Families, please check your e-mail next week for our final survey to select the option that works best for you.

I have heard that some parents may be planning a public protest to express their desire to return to full in-person learning, at least at the K-5 level. As you know, almost all districts have found the DESE's recommended full return to in-person education not feasible. While the reasons may vary, Winchester's challenges that prevent this full return include facility/space challenges, inadequate staffing levels, and insufficient resources.

I personally visited each classroom in our five elementary schools in recent weeks to measure for size, assess adequacy of ventilation/windows, and determine what furniture would be required to comply with DESE directives. We assessed the number of students assigned to each classroom and followed a similar process at our middle and high schools. Unfortunately, all of our district schools are over enrollment capacity due to very strong enrollment growth in recent years, especially our new high school. We just added to our middle school, yet space remains a challenge. Many rooms at the elementary level are undersized, were converted from other spaces, and/or are interior and lack windows. We look forward to replacing our Lynch Elementary School in the coming years through an MSBA project to expand capacity.

We continue to be concerned about having adequate staffing to meet family requests for in-person (hybrid) and full remote learning at the same time. Over 30% of our staff members have suggested that their age/medical conditions place them in high-risk categories and tell us they would need to teach remotely or have other accommodations to return to school in person. Many more staff members indicate that they are unable to return to full in-person teaching to full classrooms at the three-foot distancing recommended by the DESE. Even if we were to have the budget resources to fund many new teachers to replace them, there is not a pool of such teachers ready to hire.

Uncertain and limited financial resources also hamper the return to school planning. We have no certainty about our FY21 budget. While there will likely be some additional federal support, we have already over-expended that amount on PPE and additional staffing costs. We expect to face very significant budget shortfalls in many revenue-dependent areas, including food service, transportation, athletics, and preschool, that will be very difficult to manage, while at the same time facing millions in additional COVID-19 expenses.

I understand and empathize with our families and staff members. Many face extreme challenges balancing child care, work, and home responsibilities and are deeply worried about their family's health and their children's academic progress. If this were a matter of will or being more creative or thinking outside the box to bring more students back safely, we would do it. The combination of financial, staffing and facility challenges cannot be overcome for this fall in order for us to return all students together at any level, and we are focusing our efforts on developing the best, most robust hybrid and full remote plan we can implement. I look forward to sharing this with the school committee and community next week.

I thank you for your words of support and encouragement and your infinite patience as we finalize plans for the fall. Please direct general questions about return to

Judith A. Evans Ed.D.