We all want to know whether our children will be going back to school in September, but teachers want to know if they will be safe. Christine Esposito is one of those teachers and the Charlottesville educator is going viral for a Facebook post detailing why she is worried.
“It’s being assumed that the school can just do this,” she explained in an interview with The Daily Progress. I don’t know that everybody understands that we are being asked to do much more with less.”
As the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for schools to re-open, teachers are wondering how they are going to make their classrooms safe. They’re wondering if they will be responsible for sanitizing spaces and checking temperatures. And they’re wondering if they will get sick.
In her Facebook (shared more than 18,000 times now), Esposito has a lot of empathy for parents.
“I get it. I do. You need schools to open because…holy crap you’re not getting anything done, your kids need to see other kids, you have a job to do, and you just plain need a break. I get it. I do,” she writes.
“I’ve seen the research. Kids are, as much as we can determine barely six months into a pandemic, less likely to get it. They’re less likely to suffer from a severe form of the disease, possibly less likely to transmit it. The calls for opening schools with this data make total sense.
“Are you going to send your kids into a building with no adults? No. So when you’re out there demanding that schools open and all of your arguments are about you, about what you need, about what your kids need, but NEVER ONCE mention the dangers to the staff and faculty who will necessarily need to be in those schools, you can see where I’m a little concerned.”
The lengthy post continues: “Do you know what schools look like once school starts? We are a snotty, sneezing, sniffly, coughing mess and that’s without spike proteins invading our beings. I’m worried for me. I have parents who are considered elderly (sorry about that, but you are). Parents I have only seen from a distance since early March, except for that super socially-distanced Father’s Day.
“I’m worried for teachers who are parents—what will they do with their kids whose school schedules might be wildly different than that of their parents?
“I’m worried for the teachers who are older (and I’m REALLY sorry I’m considered one of them). But I’m more worried about our custodial staff, bus drivers, our cafeteria workers, our instructional assistants who are far more likely to be BIPOC, people who are far less likely to have the resources needed to survive an extended illness (again, not funding what matters), whose family members are more likely to be considered an essential worker in some other field.
“I don’t see anyone having these conversations.”
Esposito is hardly the first teacher to raise these issue. America’s educators are concerned and feel unsupported in school reopening plans. Back in May a poll from USA Today/Ipsos found one in five teachers say they are unlikely to go back to the classroom when school starts.
The poll showed nearly 9 in 10 teachers “believe it would be hard to enforce social distancing guidelines at school” and while many teachers don’t feel comfortable with online learning, they also don’t want to rush back to the classroom while the risk of COVID-19 exposure is still a factor.
“It’s very scary right now,” teacher Belinda Mckinney-Childrey told Chalkbeat. After 30 years in the classroom, she’s planning to retire early and believes some of her colleagues will, too. “I can’t chance my health to go back. I love my job, I love what I do, but when push comes to shove, I think the majority of us will be like ‘I think we’re going to retire.’
John Bailey is the co-author of a recent report for the American Enterprise Institute about this very issue. “What happens if a school says we believe it’s safe and a teacher believes it’s not?” he tells Chalkbeat. “How does that get arbitrated and resolved? I don’t think there’s clear systems and processes there yet.”
J.W. White, 47, a middle school teacher from Fort Worth participated in the USA Today/Ipsos survey. “I’m on a committee with my district talking about the what-ifs, because we don’t have answers on what is going to happen,” he told USA Today. “The expectation of parents and society is we’re sending our children to be educated in a safe environment, and how we’re going to provide that safe environment is completely unknown.”
For parents, the possibility of fewer teachers is just another factor potentially tipping the scales toward homeschooling in September. As Motherly previously reported, a significant number of parents in the United States are considering keeping kids home come September, even if their schools reopen.