Teachers in my state waited anxiously for our governor to address the state today about the opening of schools. Yesterday, Dr. Birx visited our state because our transmission rate is so high, and many of our citizens either don’t understand, or disagree with Covid-19 being real and in need of mitigation. She urged so many things in an effort to help us be able to safely open schools and return safely to the beloved Southern sports. There was a night of hope, as we began to think that just maybe our governor would take a stand toward mitigation.
At 4:00, he addressed us. I was in my car listening, as I sat in disbelief at what was being said “between the lines”. He prefaced by stating all of the students who truly need public schools in order to receive food, medical care, mental health services, and protective services. Then he spoke about CHOICE. Parents are being given the choice to either send their kids to school in person, or enroll in “remote learning”. He then referred to opening schools as an “experiment” to see what would happen to the transmission rate. Our state is one of the first to open in the country. He gave his approval for students to participate in contact sports as soon as school opens. I may just be over sensitive here, but to me this sounds like a total disregard for students who live in less than middle class homes. What gets me is that there are so many hybrid options that could be much safer than the free for all opening being pushed. No one even has to wear face coverings. We simply don’t have the space or the Human Resources to provide six feet of distance, or even three feet for that matter. Our classrooms are overcrowded as it is.
The part of the speech that was suppose to build our confidence was that the state is sending PPE to many schools. It sounded like they were going to send cleaning products and PPE for a year. I found little comfort in that. I have already been at work for two days, and there was not a cleaning product in sight! We need it now, not in a month. No one is going to sit around in a dusty and dirty room waiting on cleaners. No one will welcome students back to less than a clean and welcoming space. We bring in our own cleaning products to make sure things are clean.
On another note, I learned today that half of my students will be remote. This could be a good thing with regards to scheduling. It will make working from home legitimate in the event I end up having to quarantine. I hope that doesn’t happen, because most of my family does not social distance well.
I am not opposed to schools opening, in fact, I love teaching and being with the kids. What I am opposed to is throwing the kids with the greatest needs, into a situation that is not set up for their safety. “Choice” isn’t really a “choice” for everyone! It shines light on the inequalities that we have tried to ignore.