Teachers agree on more government funding after more than two years of strikes and have “tremendous power” as child safety advocates, said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She didn’t rule out strikes when heads of state move prematurely when schools reopen, and she said she believed parents would protest too.
“They put everything on the table when it comes to student safety,” said Eskelsen García. “And … I don’t think we’re alone.”
Teachers prepare for the possibility of staggered lesson times, temperature measurement, physical distance and other measures that enable students to have an unrecognizable K-12 class experience when the schools are finally reopened.
In some states, governors have already lifted some restrictions on small businesses like hair salons and election operations. The eventual reopening of schools will be an important step, however, and will lead to a return to normal life – or at least a new normal – perhaps unlike anything else. President Donald Trump said Monday that governors are preparing to reopen closed school systems without quoting specific states.
A large-scale reopening is not imminent. In most states, schools have been ordered or urged to do so for the rest of the year. Trump’s three-phase plan to reopen the economy provides that, at the governors’ discretion, schools will reopen after about a month of decline in cases and other criteria. “You see how many governors want to get out and open it,” said the president when he was asked for advice by heads of state weighing an economic restart.
“Many think about their school system. For this season, for this year, it is not a long way in the school system. But I think you will see that many schools are open, even if it is only for a very short period of time, ”Trump said.
Without a vaccine, Weingarten said it was important to be safe and coordinated, “so that people felt they had everything in them.” AFT’s plan is being informed by countries that have carefully reopened classrooms, including Denmark, Norway and Germany, she said.
In its reopening plan, the union will encourage its affiliates to advocate five conditions for districts before schools open: a 14-day drop in cases; adequate testing, tracing and isolation; Public health measures such as temperature measurement, cleaning protocols, personal protective equipment and physical distance measures such as staggered school days; Transparency and loyalty to security measures and enforcement; and increased funds to implement the multitude of changes.
AFT’s subsidiary in New York City, United Federation of Teachers, has already set a marker: start a petition Demand for comprehensive testing, temperature testing, strict cleaning and protective equipment in every school and comprehensive tracing procedures as conditions for the reopening of schools.
“In places where there is a strong commitment to the voice of the workers, we will get it, and in places where it is not, we have to use all kinds of other vehicles, or what will happen is the virus is going to be reappear, ”said Weingarten.
Eskelsen García said NEA connects thousands of members so they can share ideas.
Some raise questions about what is required for reopening, e.g. For example, how to distance yourself socially in crowded classrooms, she said. Do they use the gym or dining room to spread out? Building nearby? Do you have or need protective equipment?
Some say that reopening teachers and support staff will take a lot more time, but that can’t be free.
“There will likely be some cases where we will have to deal with renegotiating contracts for teachers who may be asked to do some fairly heroic things to open these schools,” she said.
State and local leaders have already worked with unions during the switch to distance learning. California disagreed on issues such as grading and student access to computers. The Chicago Teachers Union clashed with the Chicago Public Schools over its decision to send third-quarter certificates home. In South Bend, Indiana, the local NEA subsidiary filed a complaint with the state, in which it submitted the South Bend Community School Corp. accused of unfair labor practices. The South Bend Tribune reported.
“The safety of students, teachers and employees is the main concern of the bosses when deciding when and how school buildings should be reopened. To do this safely, new precautions are needed and teachers will be an important partner in making these decisions, “said Carolyn Phenicie, spokeswoman for the Council of Chief State School Officers.