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Teachers concerned over push to reopen schools

There are many hot-button topics in 2020. Perhaps none are more discussed than what to do about K-12 schools across the country. Here in California, Governor Newsom is pushing schools and districts to make their best attempt to reopen in the fall. He is part of a loose coalition of the president and other politicians, administrators, parents, child development experts, and others who believe that doing more online distance learning would be a mistake.

Teachers association pushes back

This push to open clashes with The California Teachers Association, one of the largest and most powerful unions in the country. The union insists that it is a mistake to send 300,000 educators back to the classrooms.

“We hope we don’t have to go there, but if it comes to it, we do retain the right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions,” said David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. “The virus is raging, and the circumstances that we were thinking we might be dealing with in September only a few weeks ago seem to be changing by the day. It just is looking increasingly unlikely that we will be able to teach in person at any level when schools first open.”

Basic logistical concerns include:

  • They lack the necessary protective gear for all the teachers and staff.
  • School classrooms often cannot accommodate physical distancing or do not have adequate ventilation capabilities.
  • They lack necessary cleaning supplies for opening and keep open the schools.

Mixed messages

Many critics of the push to reopen schools in the fall claim that lawmakers send out mixed messages. For example, Newsom mandated that all Californians wear masks, self-quarantine at home, and take the virus seriously. The union points out in-class learning would contradict these measures. Moreover, it asks teachers to assume the risk mentioned above of the dangerous workplace. It could also impact the health of loved ones at home, particularly elderly relatives and others at risk.

Rates going up

California was one of the first states to shut down back in March. Now numbers spike after the state reopened non-essential businesses -- half the state's counties with 80% of the state’s population are on a coronavirus watchlist. The governor has left the final decision up to local leaders, but it would appear that the teachers will not budge as these numbers continue to go up.

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