As the debate rages on over whether or not schools should be closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, teachers are finding themselves torn between concern for the well-being of their students and their own safety. We asked 11
teachers about coronavirus and how it's affecting their jobs and their students on a day-to-day basis, and their answers reveal a heartbreaking reality.
“My biggest fear is not about the coronavirus itself, but what will happen to the kids if the schools close?" Amanda H., an elementary school teacher in NY, tells Romper. "Many students in our population are from low-income families, and often eat both breakfast and lunch at school. If we close, how will these kids eat?"
It's true that as of this writing, schools are closing left and right. Some, like the
Whitehall-Coplay School District in PA, are temporarily closing to undergo deep sanitizing after a student tested positive for coronavirus. Others, like Seattle Public Schools (where a faculty member tested positive for COVID-19), went under a mandatory quarantine for at least 14 days, CNN reported. In light of these closings, federal lawmakers have proposed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, reported ABC News, a bill including a provision for expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides low-income families with funds to purchase food. Funds will come from an emergency coronavirus spending package worth over $8.3 billion if the bill passes.
In the meantime, we spoke with teachers (from elementary all the way up to high school) to see how they felt about the
COVID-19 virus. While some are scared (and rightly so) and others are taking a more pragmatic approach to the pandemic, all shared the common interest of ensuring that their students’ educational experience and safety remain the top priorities. Here’s what they had to say. 1 Tracy C., high school teacher in FL FatCamera/E+/Getty Images
“The children are not concerned. They are not quite sure what is going on, and when discussed, we are telling them it is like a bad flu. We are also letting them know that people who are getting sick and dying are very old and have weakened immune systems. The majority of our children bring their own food, so as far as I know, no plan is in place for those who order through the school.”
2 Ellen K., an elementary school teacher in MA
“The custodial staff is doing a stellar job to keep the classrooms, cafeteria, and common areas as clean as possible. As for us, we are Lysoling and wiping down desks daily as we always do. We are making sure that the students wash their hands with soap and water and/or hand sanitizer every single time they touch their faces.
Our school implemented a policy for our walkers (i.e. the kids who don’t take the bus home from school), where the parents who typically would come into the school now have to be dismissed through the front doors. They’re not letting anyone in.”
3 Lisa S., an elementary school teacher in NYC
“Our school is looking into options if we need to quarantine teachers and students, especially after spring break. We are possibly moving to an online curriculum and doing Skype and online classes through a program called Zoom. The district is also starting ‘social distancing’ in an attempt to minimize parents and other people from entering the schools. It’s really sad, especially when so many parents pitch in at lunchtime or during classroom activities. The kids miss that connection.”
4 Audrey E., a middle school teacher in PA
“Our district has been sending out daily emails to the parents, many of whom are petrified to send their kids in. Sure, they might be cleaning and disinfecting the buildings, but what about all the other ways kids come into contact with each other, like on the school bus? I think some of the other teachers are becoming scared to come into work, especially the older ones who might be more at risk for the coronavirus.
Additionally, our school has cancelled all classroom guest speakers, and non-school activities, like PTO, Scouts, cheerleading, community group meetings — no one can use the building.”
5 Mina F., a middle school teacher in NJ
“Our school has been diligent in communicating with us, the faculty, so we definitely feel like we know everything that’s going on. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, though. At first, I wasn’t so worried about the virus, but as each day passes, and there are more cases and outbreaks, it’s becoming scarier. I think if it continues, I hope that our school closes and we can go to online teaching for awhile.”
6 Annemarie D, a high school teacher in MN
"I have two older parents who live not too far from me. While I’m not concerned about getting it myself, per se, I’m petrified that I could pass it along to them. So even though it makes me really sad, I’ve told my parents that they can’t come over to see their grandkids, just to be on the safe side. And, of course, I worry about my students’ safety, too. You hear them talking about it and sometimes they don't have all the correct information. But maybe we don't, either."
7 Amanda H, an elementary school teacher in NYC RICKY PRAKOSO/AFP/Getty Images
“My biggest fear is not about the coronavirus itself, but what will happen to the kids if the schools close? Many students in our population are from low-income families, and often eat both breakfast and lunch at school. If we close, how will these kids eat? It makes me so sick to think about that. I’ve already started talking to the administration to see how we might be able to provide meals to my students in case it happens.”
8 Maria R, a middle school teacher in VT
“It’s hard because we want our students to be educated and empowered, and yet, we don’t want to cause a panic, either. One kid was coughing in class (due to allergies), and a few students in the class made her feel badly, saying that she had the coronoavirus. I’m concerned that this will become another way of bullying students who just might have a cold. It adds an extra layer of stress onto an already stressful situation. Also, parents are no longer being allowed to enter the building — at all. It can feel almost isolating, even though it’s being done for the safety of everyone inside the building, but still.”
9 Sarah O, a high school teacher in CA
“I’m concerned about how a potential extended school closure will affect the students’ ability to learn. The way our school is structuring it is that it would be voluntary, and the activities will be posted to each teacher’s Google Classroom page. But if our schools are closed for any length of time, how will that affect the students’ education? The fact that it would be voluntary means that a lot of kids might not do the assignments, and then they’ll be really behind. It’s going to make learning that much more challenging once everyone would be back in the classroom again.”
10 Karyn J, a high school teacher in CT
“All of the bigger events — like prom and trips — have been cancelled. And if the sports teams do play, there can be no spectators. So what’s the fun in playing if you don’t have friends and family to root you on? I feel so sorry for my students. You can see their disappointment, and it definitely affects their learning, because right now, their hearts are not in it.”
11 Gina M, an elementary school teacher in NY
“My kindergarten class now knows all about the coronavirus. While in some ways it’s good, it’s also sad when you think that 4 and 5-year-olds are now worried about things that little kids should never have to deal with. To keep everyone healthy, we always use safe hand hygiene practices in the classroom. My kids are experts at doing the vampire cough (which is when you sneeze or cough into your elbow). My hands are raw from washing them so much and using Purell.”
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus , which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support . You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “ what to know about coronavirus ” here.