Back to School, Only When It's Safe!
In the same way that the state is taking a deliberate and careful approach to reopening the economy, the state must take an equally deliberate and careful approach to reopening our public schools.
In the same way that the state is taking a deliberate and careful approach to reopening the economy, the state must take an equally deliberate and careful approach to reopening our public schools. The reality is that coronavirus is not under control, our school buildings are not equipped to meet environmental health and safety standards due to years of underfunding and disinvestment, and districts do not have adequate plans for reopening schools. Under these conditions it is only reasonable to begin the school year with remote learning. Students and educators must return to buildings only when it is safe.
Leadership should be advocating for a remote start as well as additional school funding. The real commitment to a safe re-opening of the school system lies in budgeting. Additional funding is necessary to guarantee the minimum conditions for a safe and eventual face-to-face reopening. Personal protective equipment, touch free infrared forehead thermometers, hand-sanitizers, and COVID-19 testing kits must be widely available at schools. Additional staff is needed to reduce class size and better meet the needs of students. There must be nurses in every school, adjustment counselors, psychologists, social workers, school family liaisons, and other wrap around support. A teacher to student ratio of a maximum 1:10 is appropriate for physical distancing. Technology must be provided to students and educators as well as IT support. Funds for food must be provided to families while students are away from school buildings.
Funding should not be used on high-stakes testing and test preparation. This means that we need to make a concerted effort towards the elimination of the pressures and financial commitment associated with high-stakes tests and test preparation in our classrooms and operational procedures.
Business as usual cannot continue. Lives are on the line. We need to slow our educational system down. Healthy bodies and minds must take precedence over educational rigor.
While giving thoughtful consideration to the intense levels of risk currently being faced, school buildings must not reopen to the public at this time. Additional funding must be secured and a thoughtful phased-in-approach based on public-health benchmarks developed before reopening. Anything less would be irresponsible and unconscionable. State and district leadership should be held accountable for the lives lost to the premature reopening of our school buildings.