Teach­ers are ‘scared’ or feel ‘in dan­ger’ as they con­sider re­turn to class­room

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - NEIL STEIN­BERG nstein­berg@sun­times.com | @NeilStein­berg

Print­ing let­ters has gone the way of pound­ing out copy on a man­ual type­writer. Just as well, it was mostly a sum­mer­time strat­egy for work-averse colum­nists to dis­patch their du­ties with­out much ef­fort.

How­ever. My col­umn Mon­day dis­cussing the wis­dom of the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago hold­ing in-per­son classes dur­ing an epi­demic drew in­sights from a num­ber of school per­son­nel.

So I picked three, con­dens­ing for space and scrub­bing their mes­sages of any track’em-down-and-fire-’em de­tails that vin­dic­tive school ad­min­is­tra­tors — are there any other kind? — could use to go af­ter them.

“I have been a teacher in the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago since [an im­por­tant sport­ing event in the 1980s]. I have loved be­ing a teacher for the past 25 years, with a break to raise my own chil­dren. My pas­sion as [an el­e­men­tary school] teacher is to pre­pare my stu­dents for the sacra­ments. What a gift I have been given!

“As we pre­pare for the re­open­ing of our Catholic schools, I am scared . ... All of the pub­lic schools in the sur­round­ing sub­urbs are do­ing re­mote learn­ing. We are the only school sys­tem re­open­ing in per­son. This puts fac­ulty, staff and our chil­dren in dan­ger.

“My ex­pec­ta­tions of keep­ing my stu­dents safe in­volves tak­ing tem­per­a­tures be­fore the stu­dents even leave their cars. I am not a nurse. I am a teacher. I daily put my­self in harm’s way if a shooter en­ters my class­room. Now I am be­ing ex­pected to put my­self in harm’s way with a known as­sailant, COVID-19.

“With­out a union, I feel voices of Catholic school teach­ers are un­heard. Many of us are scared. I am scared for my­self, my co-work­ers and the chil­dren and fam­i­lies I love. I pray the arch­dio­cese changes their in­per­son plan be­fore we see sick teach­ers and chil­dren, or lives lost.”

This, from a CPS so­cial stud­ies teacher: “I am be­fud­dled by the school sys­tems that are dis­re­gard­ing the pan­demic. It seems the re­open­ers fall into three groups, peo­ple who be­lieve: 1. COVID is not a real cri­sis; 2. If we just go back to nor­mal ev­ery­thing will go back to nor­mal; or 3. We have no choice, and/ or this is an op­por­tu­nity for us . ...

“Like you, I tried to pri­or­i­tize in or­der to make a de­ci­sion for my­self. Peo­ple’s lives first. There, that pretty much does it.

“Now I will go back to pre­par­ing for the weird­est year of my life as a CPS teacher. I re­ally am not go­ing to like dis­tance learn­ing again. I es­sen­tially have to take all of my prior les­son plans and s---can them. But I am grate­ful that the CPS, for what­ever rea­son, did not de­cide to put us all in harm’s way for now.”

Has any­one thought about school bus driv­ers? I hadn’t, un­til I re­ceived this, from a sub­ur­ban high school Dis­trict 214 bus driver:

“Out­side the build­ing it all goes to hell. The dis­trict de­creed no ad­di­tional trans­porta­tion is needed per CDC guide­lines, there will be 50 peo­ple on a bus (driver and 49 stu­dents). They say no dis­tanc­ing is nec­es­sary for a half-hour ride and two to a seat is safe . ... I pointed out our newer buses with more safety pad­ding have one less row and only seat 47 full-size rid­ers but was told the dis­trict says 49 can ride even though they know it’s two seats with three oc­cu­pants.

“Now here it gets even stick­ier. Illi­nois law is ‘You can­not refuse to trans­port a stu­dent to school.’ The ride home is up to the school. The dis­trict re­quires the stu­dents and driver to wear a mask, but if the stu­dent doesn’t have one or re­fuses to wear one you still have to take that stu­dent to school. (HR ad­vised us we could buy masks on our own to of­fer the un­masked stu­dents). Es­sen­tially ex­pos­ing every­one on the bus if the un­masked is in­fected . ... The spe­cial-needs buses make mul­ti­ple runs and not to the same schools. The driv­ers are re­quired to spray the dis­in­fec­tant af­ter ev­ery run. The driv­ers are alarmed since most of those kids have dis­abil­i­ties and med­i­cal is­sues.

“The clean­ing agents to be used are not set yet so no one knows what re­ac­tions may oc­cur ... driv­ers start pick­ing routes this af­ter­noon with many of us won­der­ing if it’s re­ally worth the risk?”


What’s the point of so­cial dis­tanc­ing at school if kids are jammed aboard a bus com­ing and go­ing?

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