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Teachers Are Worried About Schools Reopening & These Are 15 Of Their Biggest Concerns

by Morgan Brinlee

While some states have made progress in reducing new coronavirus cases, many others are battling new surges in infections after moving to reopen businesses. Despite these recent spikes, President Donald Trump has been pushing states to reopen schools for full-time, in-person instruction. As debate over reopening schools heats up, teachers are worried about schools reopening and have shared their biggest concerns.

Across the country, school districts are grappling with when and how to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While the Trump administration has called for schools to fully reopen in the fall, many teachers have questioned how safe and feasible such a demand really is. From questions about the practicality of social distancing on school buses and in small classrooms to concerns about who'll pay for the needed sanitizing supplies and face masks, it's clear that reopening schools is much more complicated than it initially sounds, and educators rightfully have concerns.

In New Jersey, English teacher Sarah Mulhern Gross crowdsourced nearly 400 questions from her fellow New Jersey educators. These included questions as to whether surviving spouses would be provided with a life insurance payout if a teacher died after contracting COVID-19 while teaching? Whether teachers could be held liable and sued if a student contracted COVID-19 from their classroom? Will districts cover the health insurance costs of a substitute teacher who gets sick when covering for an infected teacher?

The list goes on. Questions about testing, cleaning, funding, contact tracing, exposure protocol, job security, hybrid learning models, and how schools will ensure parents are properly monitoring their children's health fill the list, emphasizing teachers' well-thought out concerns. Below are 15 additional concerns teachers have raised about reopening schools while coronavirus cases continue to rise:

Where Is The Funding?

In a tweet shared on July 6, the head of the country's second largest teacher's labor union pushed back against the president's call to reopen schools in the fall by asking where funding and safety plans for said reopening were.

"Where is the funding?" Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers tweeted. "Where are the safety plans?"

How And When Will Cleaning Happen If Kids Are In The Classroom More?

After being informed the use of disinfectant wipes wouldn't be allowed in classrooms with young children due to the chemicals they contain, a pre-Kindergarten took to Twitter to express concern over how and when teachers like her would have time to give their classrooms, furniture, toys, and supplies a good cleaning.

"How will elementary school teachers clean their classrooms? When?" she asked. "They want kids in the classroom during lunch, so when can we even sanitize high touch surfaces?" she asked in a follow-up tweet.

Could Teachers Be Held Liable If A Child Gets Sick?

A Kindergarten teacher questioned whether teachers would, or could, be held liable if a child gets sick while in their care at school?

"Will there be liability issues," one teacher asked. "Suppose 2 kids in the same room become infected, will the teacher be held responsible for failing to sanitize appropriately?"

Will Teachers And Students Be Given Access To COVID-19 Tests?

"So baseball players will get tested for COVID-19 every two days," a Kindergarten teacher in Washington, D.C. tweeted earlier this month. "How often will teachers and students be tested?"

What If...?

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas shared a series of questions and "what if" concerns raised by an Arizona teacher. After outlining a hypothetical scenario in which one junior high student tests positive for COVID-19 after attending a full day of classes and interacting with various school faculty.

"In the course of the day, he exposed at least 11 adults and at least 35 fellow students to the virus," the teacher wrote. "The recommendation is for adults who have been exposed to quarantine for the next 14 days."

But who will replace the student's teacher and all of the other faculty members the student came into contact with for two weeks? Will the library have to close while the librarian quarantines? Will student counseling services be put on hold if the school's counselor is exposed and needs to quarantine? What gets done in the classroom and how are sick days allocated if a teacher is repeatedly exposed to the virus and thus repeatedly has to quarantine during the school year?

How Will Social Distancing Work In Small Spaces?

An English teacher took to Twitter to ask other teachers how their school districts had proposed handling social distancing on school buses and in small classrooms.

"If your school is a busing district, how are students getting to school and adhering to the 6' rule?" Twitter user Julie Jee asked. "How many students will be in a room and how will you be able to teach while maintaining 6' distance from them at all times?"

Would You Host 36 Children Inside Your Home For 6 Hours?

To help non-educators better understand teachers' concerns, Jen Roberts, an English teacher in San Diego, California, asked Twitter users to imagine hosting 36 children in their home for six hours, or alternatively, hosting six different groups of 36 children for one hour each.

"This sounds like a lot right," Roberts wrote in a follow-up tweet. "You’re worried one of those 180 kids in your house might be carrying the virus and give it to you or several of the others. That could happen."

Roberts also sought to shed light on some of the challenges facing teachers who could be tasked with supervising children both in the classroom and learning remotely. "You want to host a virtual party for 12 kids and an in person party for 24 at the same time?" Roberts tweeted. "Okay, but good luck making sure both groups are adequately supervised and having an equally good time."

Are We Asking Too Much Of Teachers?

"We are told so often, 'just make it work, after all, aren't we in it for the kids?'" teacher Pernille Ripp tweeted. "As if being in it for the kids means I magically have no way of getting sick, duplicating myself so I can teach online and live in person at the same time, and oh, also planning for all of this."

Looming Deadlines And Little Training

Fifth grade English teacher Tracy Edwards questioned what school districts expected teachers with little to no training in curriculum development or online instruction to produce in the limited time available to them before school starts in the fall.

"I worked as a full-time curriculum developer for about 3 years with a dedicated team of experts," Edwards tweeted. "It took a year to create & another year to revise. What are districts expecting from teachers with little to no training around planning & implementing solid online instruction?"

So Many Questions

On Facebook, elementary school teacher Jillian Starr noted she had "so many questions" about schools reopening. Her questions included things like how teachers would console a crying child while practicing social distancing, how teachers would monitor students in person and online at the same time, and would teachers receive hazard pay if tasked with disinfecting classrooms.

How Should Teachers Handle The Politics Of COVID-19?

"What happens when you get kids who've been traumatized by COVID in the same room with kids who've been told it's a hoax or overblown?" one Twitter user asked when pondering the reopening of schools. "For many communities this is a real divide that's going to show up in classrooms."

Will COVID-19 Precautions Overrule Active Shooter Precautions?

One English teacher wondered how precautions and safety measures put in place to address coronavirus concerns might impact schools' other safety measures.

"What happens to fire drills? Active shooter drills? Evacuation drills?" they tweeted. "These are done multiple times per month and require close proximity. The guidelines recommend keeping doors propped open. Will COVID precautions overrule active shooter precautions?"

Should Families Be Responsible For Temperature Checks?

After noticing how many businesses checked her temperature before allowing her to enter for service, Edwards questioned whether parents — who are already overworked and stretched thin — could be relied on to regularly check children's temperatures.

"Our district's reopening plan relies on families to do [temperature checks] daily," Edwards tweeted. "Do we seriously believe this is going to happen realistically? Because I don't... The real problem is lack of affordable child care. Plus many of our most vulnerable families don't have the luxury of paid time off."

How Will I Get Adequate Supplies On No Budget?

In discussing her concerns about returning to in-person instruction, one educator questioned how schools already facing issues with inadequate funding would obtain the necessary sanitizing supplies or ensure older HVAC systems were capable of keeping up with new ventilation needs among other things.

Why Isn't Anyone Listening To Teachers?

As political debate heated up over reopening schools, educator Dwayne Reed questioned why few people in power seemed willing to listen to teachers: "Honest question: how many teachers or students have to get sick or die before we give teachers a say in whether or not schools should be open in the fall?"

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.