FRAMINGHAM – A few years ago, my students and I had a joke that I lived in the tiny closet on wheels in my classroom.
Every night I was locked in by the custodial staff and every morning I was allowed out in order to teach my classes. I don’t know where it started. Perhaps it was a kid that said something about me not having a family or a home. Basically – all he saw was: teacher. There was nothing else attached to that life.
Parents know that’s not true. But their desire for schools to reopen when our city is a red zone makes me wonder why they would risk the safety of their families and the lives of teachers and their families.
We are not being unreasonable when we ask for a safe work place. We want nothing more to go back to school. We want that for your children as well as our own.
We can all agree that Zoom is a paltry substitute for live school. But the other option – coming to school is much worse. Some of your children will be getting onto school buses where they might or might not catch COVID. For those who are in high school and middle school, they will then have to navigate the crowded hallway to get to class, not once, but four times.
With the model proposed to start in December, the high school hallways will have approximately 500 students during passing time. Added to that will be 200 hundred teachers who now have to go from classroom to classroom because we can no longer teach from the same room. Our hallways are narrow. That means students will be smooshed against the lockers in order to stay six feet apart. If they come to a doorway, that space is reduced by a foot on either side. And the stairways…. well that is definitely going to be less than four feet. Once students finally arrive to class they will be with different students who may or not be bringing COVID into the room.
If you are worried about too much screen time with remote school, that isn’t going to change when students are back in the building. They will still be on a screen because we can’t safely distribute materials. They will have little opportunity to talk to peers unless it’s from six feet away and through a mask. They will eat lunch six feet apart all facing the same direction.
Even if we take every precaution, there will be COVID cases. Teens are teens. They sometimes won’t wear masks when they hang out with friends or are practicing sports. They might come to school when they are sick because they don’t want to fall behind. This year, I’ve already had that student. They came to their Zoom class even though they tested positive and felt awful. They didn’t want to fall behind. If we go back, there will be many others who will come to school sick for the same exact reason.
Some of my colleagues are over 60. I know several younger ones that suffer from underlying conditions. Some of them have children who have underlying conditions. Should one of my colleagues die from COVID, I will be heartbroken. They are the blood and soul of this building. They go above and beyond – providing coats and prom dresses for those less fortunate. They understand trauma (as they have cared for some many students that have experienced it) and when your student returns, they will help them through the trauma of COVID. They care deeply about your children and would be devastated should any student die from COVID.
You might be willing to assume the risk. If your child – God forbid – contracts COVID – they might be okay. Some children who have had COVID face major complications or lingering health issues afterwards. And what about you? Do you have any pre-existing conditions that would make COVID threaten your life?
No? That’s great. How about your parents? Are their lives expendable? Are you Latino or of color? If you answered yes – that means you are more likely to die of COVID.
It’s not that teachers don’t want to teach your students in person. We want nothing more than to return to school. Our eyes are also tired at the end of the day from looking at screens. We too feel isolated and depressed. But it isn’t safe. We are charged with your child’s safety from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In
order to protect them and their family members, they need to remain at home until we have control over COVID.
Commissioner Riley, Governor Baker – Teachers don’t want people to die because we are forced to return to school when the virus is raging in our districts. We care about our students, their family members and ours.
Please. Let us work remotely until it’s truly safe.
Framingham High Teacher and Framingham resident.