“The War in the Schools” is the headline I woke up to this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. I did not even continue to watch. I stopped watching the news months ago. But I cannot believe that opening the schools has become a political battle. I truly thought when I left school in March, I would be returning to school after spring break. I thought we were closing to flatten the curve. I never imagined we were closing until we found a vaccine.
People keep saying that teachers are freaking out about returning to work. I do not know one teacher who is freaking out about returning to work. Many of my teacher friends are eager to return to the school buildings to try to gain a sense of normalcy. According to the Gothamist online news website, on August 4, 2020 “hundreds” of parents and teachers protested regarding their children returning to school. “Hundreds.” Now according to the New York City Department of Education, there are 75,000 teachers and over one million students. So I do not think “hundreds” of people protesting warrants that all teachers are freaking out about returning to their buildings.
I have spoken to many teachers about returning to work and many who have concerns have concerns that have been around way before Covid. Many people are unaware that many New York City High School classrooms have 34 students. Also, many school buildings house more than one school and hallways are crowded. That is going to be difficult to social distance. Another concern is cleanliness in school buildings. Many schools in New York City are actually in terrible condition both physically and cleaning-wise. I know I proctored the Regents exams one year in a school I will not mention and the windows only opened about an inch. I am not a Covid expert but I have heard about ventilation being an issue. The room was also filthy. (When I was a Catholic School teacher, I had to go to a NYC high school to take my last teacher certification exam. When I entered the room, the proctor gave me a cleaning wipe. When I sat down I cleaned the filthy desk. The young lady next to me said, “Ma’am that wipe is for cleaning your finger after they fingerprint you.”)
So, for years, our schools have been ignored and teachers and staff have done their best to keep rooms clean using their own supplies. Teachers receive an allotment of money each year and many teachers I know, including myself, use some of that money on cleaning supplies. This year, due to budget cuts, teachers will not be receiving that money.
However, if we are going to battle the political game, I can play too: I will go back to work with a smile on my face and pep in my step if on Friday after work I can go eat dinner inside one of my local restaurants. How can my governor and mayor say I cannot enjoy a meal inside a restaurant but I can return to school?
Have a good week everyone, enjoy the rest of the summer. Silver lining: 8/31 is a Monday so an extra week of summer!
By Beth Hanning