Charlotte, N.C. – With the 2020-2021 school year approaching, many teachers across the nation are demanding that they and their students not return to the classroom in August. The reason? For those educators opposing in-person instruction, “they did not sign up for this.”
Public schools have been closed across the nation since March. Now, districts across the country are being forced to reconsider their reopening plans and even reverse course for the upcoming school year, as coronavirus infection rates continue to spike, and new hot spots emerge.
Teachers across the nation have taken to online petitions and protests, pledging “not to return until it is safe.”
Epidemiologists and pediatricians acknowledge that schools cannot ensure a risk-free environment, but some are optimistic that scheduling and structural adjustments can help lessen the danger. This week, several experts told Yahoo Life that children are capable of wearing masks throughout the school day.
“I will tell you, kids are good at it,” said Matthew Wilber, a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Pediatrics. “Especially 4-year-olds and up, they are good at it. … It’s like dress-up or Halloween — they are not as bothered by it as I thought they would be.”
There you have it. Are the petitions and refusals to return to the classroom more about students – or the ease of burden on educators? For decades, teachers on every level have petitioned for more benefits and higher pay, citing that they are “essential” to the lives and future of our nation’s children. Now, in the face of possible danger, many of these same educators fail to stand tall and accept the risk for the sake of their children.
Many accepted the call across America, absorbed the risk, pulled up their sleeves, and returned to their work for the sake of their families and their community. From checkout attendants at Walmart to meat processing workers, Americans from every creed, gender, race, and religion have gauged the risks and accepted that now, every job is essential to life and the security of America. Why not teachers?
What if truck drivers stated they cannot work because fuel stops were “too dangerous” to visit – therefore, food and essential products lay empty upon grocery store shelves? What if doctors, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, and other first responders said, “it was too dangerous to return to work?” Where would our nation be?
I have children – two of them. Their educational experience has been dramatically altered and diminished since March 2020. Suddenly, their 8-hour workload was reduced to 2, or even less daily. Many parents like myself have wondered, “How can this be?” Remote learning was not practical or positive for many parents or students. Many students lacked the proper technology at home to participate daily – what about these kids? Other children lacked structure; some even, daily food guaranteed by attending school every day.
For those parents who are mandated to go to work every day, what will their fall semester resemble? For the parents who have multiple children, are they expected to work 8-10 hours each day, and assist their children with 2-3 hours of additional work?
For many in our nation, no job equals no check. If an employer mandates their attendance, and they fail to report, their job and their family’s livelihood is at risk. Those teachers who are mandated to report to work and they fail to do so, are their risks the same?
This virus has caused chaos across our country. Many Americans have lost their jobs or businesses; many have lost their lives. For generations, the brave men and women of the United States have stood tall and robust in the face of adversity and danger. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked our countrymen and women to sacrifice to defeat evil throughout Asian and Europe. Americans answered the call; Hitler and Imperial Japan were defeated.
Today, our nation faces an even greater danger – a virus one-billionth of our size that is killing our citizens, society, freedom, and everyday American life. In the face of this danger, the knowledge of our children, and those responsible must not bow to fear. A reliable strategy must win over the political and argumentative debate that has divided our country.
During this time, educators, like many millions of others on the frontlines, are asked to sacrifice. If there was ever a time to prove essentiality, now is the time. The question remains, how will our nation’s educators respond?
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