School districts around the US are set to begin reopening in August, many with in-person classes, five days a week, despite coronavirus cases rising in many parts of the country.
But the school reopenings have teachers around the US fearful for the safety of themselves, students, staff and family members, with teachers and unions saying that proper protections and protocols have yet to be implemented.
Some teachers have even drawn up wills ahead of classes beginning, others have retired from the profession and teachers unions have said they will sanction strike action for members who deem that they are being forced to take potentially deadly risks.
“Educators are afraid because proper policies are not being put in place to protect them,” said Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association. The Oklahoma state board of education has only issued guidelines for school districts, and voted down a proposal on 23 July to issue a mask mandate in schools across the state.
“The OEA offers members through our personal legal services program a free will. The requests for those free wills are up over 3,000% in the last few weeks,” Priest added.
A report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on 10 July found 1.47 million teachers in the US – some 24% of the profession – are at greater risk of serious illness if infected with coronavirus because they have conditions that make them vulnerable.
Yet Florida has issued an order mandating all schools must open in August in-person, five days a week. The Florida teachers union responded to the order with a lawsuit.
“We are letting the community down by pretending we can open safely. The districts cannot do what is necessary according to CDC guidelines,” said Stacy Rene Kennett, a kindergarten teacher in Immokalee, Florida, who is expected to begin attending in-person training for school reopenings on 4 August.
Amy Scott, an IB language arts high school teacher in Miami, Florida for 44 years, decided to retire one year early due to the coronavirus pandemic and the instability of the upcoming school year.
“I dreaded it. I wanted to extend it as long as possible because I love kids and teaching,” said Scott. “But then came coronavirus and I realized all the difficulties of holding brick-and-mortar classrooms and the danger involved to teachers, students and the community spread and I didn’t want to end my 45 years of teaching in such a frustrating environment.”
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Source: The Guardian