Questions I Have Before We Start Back To School

Last Spring, I wrote a post with questions about how our schools may be changed due to the current pandemic.

Two weeks from today, I and my colleagues return to our school for the 2020-2021 school year. Our school leadership has been incredibly transparent with us, our students and our parents. They are following the guidelines issued by the CDC and our state health department, with the safety and well being of students and staff as a priority. I am extremely proud of the work they have done, and how it has been communicated to all.

Like most schools, we are opening with a hybrid in-class/blended online model. Our administration has taken the relatively rare step of having the education conversation before having the technology conversation. I was thrilled when one of our principals let me know that he has completed the Critical Skills for Online Teaching and Effective Strategies for Online Classrooms courses offered by the VHS Learning, who happens to be the organization who created the online teaching/learning model in 1996. Our professional development will be much more comprehensive that just putting assignments into a LMS, and I can’t wait to be part of it.

What follows is more specific about the challenges we will face as we open the school year than my prior post. None of it is original, my son shared it on his facebook wall. I don’t know the original author, but I would love to hear some answers from those at the state and federal levels who have been elected or appointed to provide the requisite leadership for us.

Betsy DeVos and the Repub. Admin, we have a few questions for you:
• If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?
• If that teacher has 5 classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?
• Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does everyone in each of those kids’ families need to get tested? Who pays for that?
• What if someone who lives in the same house as a teacher tests positive? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine? Is that time off covered? Paid?
• Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?
• Substitutes teach in multiple schools. What if they are diagnosed with COVID-19? Do all the kids in each school now have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?
• What if a student in your kid’s class tests positive? What if your kid tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Do we all get notified who is infected and when? Or because of HIPAA regulations are parents and teachers just going to get mysterious “may have been in contact” emails all year long?
• What is this stress going to do to our teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach? How does it affect the quality of education they are able to provide? What is it going to do to our kids? What are the long-term effects of consistently being stressed out?
• How will it affect students and faculty when the first teacher in their school dies from this? The first parent of a student who brought it home? The first kid?
• How many more people are going to die, that otherwise would not have if we had stayed home longer?
30% of the teachers in the US are over 50. About 16% of the total deaths in the US are people between the ages of 45-65.
We are choosing to put our teachers in danger.
We’re not paying them more.
We aren’t spending anywhere near the right amount to protect them. And in turn, we are putting ourselves and our kids in danger.

And so it goes…