41 Teachers' Voices on Back to School
Forty-one educators from across the nation share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns on going back to school this fall.
Editor’s note: Amid spiking coronavirus cases in parts of the country, summer school infections and tenuous planning for fall, NewsHour EXTRA put out a call mid-July to gauge how teachers felt about reopening. Dozens of teachers shared their fears, frustrations, hopes and uncertainties. Responses below have been edited for clarity and length. We also include links to lesson plans and blog posts relevant to coronavirus and reopening plans.
I’m okay teaching and sending my child to school IF it’s done safely. I have received ZERO assurances that this will be done. I have received ZERO assurances that the state or federal government will increase revenue to provide basic PPE, sanitization supplies or resources to address social distancing. — Lee Wright, Saint Cloud, Florida, ninth grade teacher
I teach preschool special ed. The phrase we all have heard is “early intervention is key to a child’s success.” My students need the OT, speech, PT and other services. I feel like my students should be in class, but with the needs of special ed, all of the recommendations from the CDC will be almost impossible to implement. Catch 2020.
— Stephanie Blank, Altadena, Calif., preschool teacher
As a veteran educator, I yearn to return to the classroom and to my students. They are the reason I’ve dedicated my life to teaching, and I miss them every day. I want to feel confident that all available safety measures will be in place; instead, what I’ve heard state and national leaders say makes me afraid they’re willing to sacrifice us to keep the economy going. — Frances Turner, Atlanta, Georgia
This is a tough decision. I think the best thing schools can do right now is offer parents a choice. It’s going to be a learning curve, and things are going to be different, but we will make the best of it. That’s what teachers do.
— Laura Smith, Joppa, Maryland, director of online learning
Putting hundreds and in some cases thousands of young people and adults in close settings such as schools, many with little to no AC, is a recipe for disaster, especially with cases rising in many states and hospitals reaching capacity.
Class size in Paterson, NJ can be as many as 40 students. Good luck. Teachers have no recourse. School is outdated. Concerned for friends still working … and students.
— Noreen Sweeney, Warwick, New York, former high school teacher
[Lesson Plan: Teachers In Florida Push Back Against Reopening Plan]
Public schools serve as the foundations of their communities. In the best social and academic interests of children, and in a best-case scenario, brick and mortar schools should be open. But COVID-19 is not a best-case scenario. And putting hundreds and in some cases thousands of young people and adults in close settings such as schools, many with little to no AC, is a recipe for disaster, especially with cases rising in many states and hospitals reaching capacity. — Deborah Van Pelt, Tampa, Florida, high school teacher
I love teaching and I love my job, but I shouldn’t have to put my life and my family’s lives on the line to do my job. It’s not an acceptable option to quit — teaching has been my dream for as long as I can remember—but our government should be doing more to keep us and our students safe. Opening five days a week to all students with the recommendation of masks is unacceptable. People keep spouting these facts that we’re going to be okay and kids won’t get as sick or infect teachers, but honestly we don’t have enough data to ensure that’s the case.
— Heather DeBaca, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, eighth grade teacher
My state (North Carolina) has been lacking on guidance recently, but I would certainly give credit to my district for being as proactive as they can be. I would love to be in the classroom this fall. I miss my students. At the same time, though, I would never put that above the safety of my students, the safety of fellow faculty and staff, the safety of my family and the safety of the community as a whole. My classroom is likely to be online, and I can live with that if it keeps everyone safe. — Kyle Stern, Durham, North Carolina
My school just formed a small reopening committee and we have met three times so far. We seem to get stuck on articulating concerns and find it difficult to move forward with solutions. As of now, our committee outlined two possible schedules, and our own model for reopening, but the problem is complex with many layers of planning depending on circumstances out of our control. It is difficult to wrap my head around the schedule teachers and students will follow.
— Elisa Margarita, New York City, New York, high school teacher
We seem to get stuck on articulating concerns and find it difficult to move forward with solutions.
If we are truly in this together, if we abide by our social contract and take precautions including practicing social distancing, wearing our masks, quarantining if necessary, then we can stop the spread of this disease and we can open schools safely for our children and for the adults. Perhaps some school districts have reached that level, but in South Florida, we have not. Schools house over 1,000 students. There is no realistic distancing that will prevent the spread of germs when the rate of infection is this high.
— Neyda Borges, Miami Lakes, Florida, high school teacher