As we begin the second week of the 2020-21 school year, the members of the Hanover Park Regional Education Association (HPREA) want to take the opportunity to thank the Hanover Park Regional High School District students and parents for their patience, flexibility, and assistance, which allowed us all to have a successful start to the school year. Working together, we can do what we do best: provide the best possible educational experience for Hanover Park Regional High School’s students.
However, we also want to clear up some of the misinformation that has been circulating throughout this time. From the start, the HPREA has been clear in its goal: Ensuring that the health and safety of our campuses’ students and staff are the district’s top priority. After all, you cannot have a strong school unless you have a safe one. While the district has made many strides towards achieving this, several issues remain outstanding, including but not limited to:
- Although the district has promised the HPREA a copy, the district has failed to produce the report on the HVAC systems, or provide proof that it has met or exceeded indoor air quality guidelines;
- The district’s inconsistent use of higher-rated MERV filters to strengthen protections against any airborne virus and its failure to introduce an alternative filtration system that would achieve the same goal;
- The lack of access to fresh air, as at the beginning of the school year the district acknowledged an inability to open dampers because many are no longer functional
- Since the beginning of the school year, buildings have been closed as the district works on the ventilation systems, work which could not have been done with students on campus
- The random spot-checking of classrooms’ air quality to justify a widespread declaration that buildings are safe;
- The ongoing and egregious disregard for bus safety;
- The failure to establish an effective screening process for staff and students in the building; and
- The absence of a clear, consistent cleaning and disinfecting procedure given the increased workload that will be placed on the custodian, maintenance, and grounds staff.
The HPREA is working diligently with the administration to address these issues, but we cannot remain silent any longer as we watch our members shoulder the blame for the remote start to the school year. Any HPREA members who sought and were awarded the federally-approved workplace accommodations available to all workers—not just school employees—during the COVID-19 pandemic are not the sole reason why our students must engage in virtual learning now. Simply put, our district buildings are not ready to safely house an increased number of students and staff, as evidenced by the outstanding issues and recent building closures on campus. We take these issues seriously and only need to look at what has happened in some surrounding districts to understand the impact this virus can have and the disruption it can cause.
To be clear, HPREA members want nothing more than to see our schools fully reopen and get back to the business of maintaining the best public schools in the nation. We share the community’s desire to move forward, but know that we can only do so when it is safe. To that end, we urge the administration and Board of Education to swiftly address and rectify the remaining health and safety concerns. Until then, we will continue to work together, care for and protect one another, and, most importantly, lead by example. We do not want Hanover Park Regional to become another cautionary tale.
Brady Mahar, President
Hanover Park Regional Education Association