Pressure is being placed on teachers to return to in-person classes. Here’s why that’s a problem.
Teachers know best whether or not precautions are in place at their schools. Their views should be heard and respected.
Schools have classrooms with no windows or windows glued shut. They still have lousy ventilation systems and maintenance problems. Some schools are overcrowded. School districts may face shortages of qualified teachers, school staff, and substitute teachers.
Americans are repeatedly told about the importance of getting vaccinated and to remain cautious afterward.
Some Americans have trepidation about getting vaccines that have been rolled out quickly, but most teachers have been eager to get vaccinated to return to the classroom safely. Some states have worked to get teachers vaccinated, and others have not.
Yesterday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House news briefing that teachers don’t need vaccinations to return to classrooms. This sounds disingenuous.
States and school boards should seriously consider how Covid-19 money will be spent to make schools safe long-term. They should include teachers in those decisions and balance those costs with initiatives that are meaningful.
Will money be wasted on plastic barriers that will only be used for a few months and eventually end up in the landfill? Wouldn’t be better to keep students working remotely until schools can reopen normally?
Putting money into new ventilation systems that will also be healthier after the pandemic makes more sense. Money could be spent on lowering class sizes now and in the future.
In Georgia, the Governor is considering creating a teacher pipeline to deal with the teacher shortage when the pandemic is over. Maybe it isn’t perfect and using the word pipeline may leave something to be desired. But he wants to reach out to retired teachers, and encourage HBCUs to get teachers of color into the classroom. His daughter wants to be a teacher. There are some pluses here. Not everyone agrees.
***Please see Peter Smagorinsky’s AJC letter in Bruce Kendall’s comment below.
Many of us struggle to make sense of the science surrounding Covid-19 because we aren’t scientists. Research often seems contradictory. Some reports say that children spread the virus, and here, and others say they don’t.
Now there are new variants to worry about and we’re told to double mask.
A recent report What the science really says: Closing schools is vital to containing COVID-19 lists studies that indicate schools might not be safe.
These contradictions make it sound like opening schools is still risky.
Within a space of ten minutes yesterday, I heard that there was good news about Covid-19 and that we need to prepare for dark days ahead.
The news often reports the sad state of affairs surrounding the virus. Next, they’re reporting about those who say teachers need to return to work. These contradictions create confusion and fear.
Teacher critics have used Covid-19 to blame teachers and their unions unfairly for school disruptions.
David Brook’s article, Teachers Need to Be Back in School Tomorrow is a good example. Brooks begins by comparing Covid-19 and school safety concerns, namely teachers and their unions, with Republicans who denied President Biden had won the election. He failed to make his case according to all the comments made about his writing.
Last spring, teachers were respected when they jumped to work with students remotely, but now they’ve been villainized as laggards who only care about their checks and benefits. In some places, they are being bullied and gaslighted to return to the classroom even though they don’t think it’s safe.
Along with the above, CBS This Morning had a segment about the problems facing Chicago’s public schools reopening. They included Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice for the libertarian nonprofit think tank the Reason Foundation.
DeAngelis criticized teachers as staying home and retaining the same amount of benefits and pay and job security. But teachers have been working full time, in some places in-person, and with a hybrid approach.
After this, CBS This Morning host Tony Mason, whose wife is a teacher, kindly discussed the difficulties teachers face working from home.
Former education secretary Betsy DeVos used Covid-19 to blame public school teachers for their concerns about school safety. Many states are now pushing school vouchers and their choice agenda.
Some schools have better funding, smaller classes, and better ventilation systems to seem safer. But the virus doesn’t care what school a child attends. If fewer private schools have Covid-19 cases, it could simply be because they’re lucky.
How a community is run and whether the virus is a problem in the community is closely connected to school safety. If the virus is still rampant in the community, it seems like schools should stay closed.
When restaurants and businesses open prematurely, and Covid-19 cases start to climb, it would appear that this puts teachers and students at risk.
10. Learning Loss
Students have been going to school remotely since last spring, and we don’t know how far behind they’ve fallen. That hasn’t stopped the doomsday predictors from jumping on the falling behind bandwagon.
One educator said We know students are falling behind with rates we are not satisfied with. Exactly. Adults want students to learn what they want at the rate or speed that they want.
Some day shortly, students will be assessed and helped to move forward. This should be without punishment but with kindness and understanding. Until then, students need academic and emotional support from their teachers, parents, and the community.
Teachers hear that they should return to school and that it’s safe for teachers and children. Then they hear about dying colleagues and students.
When a teacher reads about the death of 9-year-old J.J. Boatman, who tested positive for the fatal virus and died soon after, it raises concerns.
Parents and teachers must communicate and listen to each other’s fears about the students and the pandemic. Teachers and parents really want the same thing.
If schools are to open, it might be to support those parents who must work or have students with serious disabilities. These would be small classes and only with teachers who feel comfortable returning to class.
But the need for parents to return to work or to help parents whose children have disabilities doesn’t mean schools are safer when it comes to Covid-19.
It would seem to make more sense to keep most schools closed for now until the virus subsides. School boards should work to see how the virus is affecting the community and address the problems that arise with students.
The focus should be on supporting teachers with remote learning, which doesn’t necessarily mean online learning, and with some in-person learning.
Until Covid-19 cases decrease, teachers get vaccinated, and communities start to reopen with Covid-19 in the rearview mirror, teachers will likely continue to be nervous about returning to the classroom.
Americans must sign on to supporting and working with their teachers and public schools to help children continue to learn the best and safest way possible for everyone.