HOUSTON — Teachers say they are literally “fighting for their lives” as they protest around the country to stay out of the classrooms during this COVID-19 pandemic. As students are already contracting the disease, many teachers feel they are sitting ducks, fearing exposure from the students they are designated to educate.
School districts across the United States planned for hybrid alternatives for instruction, splitting time between in-person and online instruction, but with spikes in cases, many feel face-to-face (even masked) is not worth the risk.
It has been an up and down situation in Texas with Gov. Greg Abbott first ordering schools open, then backing off as infections continued to climb. Local health departments stepped in to bar some districts from opening, but Abbott left the decision up to local school officials. Teachers are saying that is not good enough, and are making sure their voices are heard.
Locally, dozens of parents and teachers gathered outside Cy-Fair ISD’s board meeting last week demanding change before the start of school.
The teachers’ union surveyed members, reporting 60% favored virtual learning and 35% were comfortable with teaching in person.
One teacher held a powerful sign, reading, “I can’t teach from the grave.”
Another was dressed as the grim reaper. The message was clear: teachers don’t want to die.
Over the summer, in Arizona, three teachers who were sharing a classroom for two hours a day teaching online classes all caught coronavirus, despite following protocols of social distancing, wearing masks and gloves, and using hand sanitizer. A 61-year-old teacher, who had worked for the school district for 38 years , died less than two weeks after she was hospitalized. The other two survived.
As outlined in The Washington Post, Chicago Public Schools announced last week that it would begin the year online, after planning a hybrid system. Last week, the first week of school in Georgia’s Cherokee County School District, administrators sent 14 letters to parents, each disclosing new coronavirus cases. That included 13 students, ranging from first to 12th grades, and a few teachers. More than 300 students who had been in contact with them were directed to self-isolate for 14 days.
Another Georgia high school, in Paulding County, drew national attention after students posted pictures and video of their peers walking without masks in tightly packed hallways. Now, six students and three staff members there have tested positive for the virus, according to a letter sent to parents over the weekend.
So we ask you, do the teachers have a point?