School Must Go On With Teachers And Staff More At Ease With The Risk

Friday, August 14, 2020

Re: Teacher COVID Video:

Teachers are among our most important professionals. Their influence on students is profound and greatly appreciated. They are essential, vital workers - as are healthcare professionals, firefighters and police officers, grocery store staff, retailers, wholesalers, waiters and chefs, mechanics, convenience store and gas station personnel, cleaners, maintenance staff, and delivery specialists such as those employed by USPS, FedEx, UPS, DoorDash and UberEats.
Everyone at work is "essential" and plays an important though sometimes unheralded role in the community.

Unfortunately, everyone is also at risk from this pandemic - everyone, without exception, even with mitigation strategies in place.  

Nonetheless, students must return to school. Scientific data show that children endure the least severe effects from the virus and that risk or serious illness in adults increases with age and co-morbidities. Moreover, multiple experts also have stated how students suffer through lack of in-person interaction with others (teachers and other children) in the classroom as well as through sub-optimal and inequitable learning environments that remote education creates. Families with parents who must stay home with their kids and cannot work are negatively impacted from a financial standpoint. Moreover, the national economic recovery is hindered because these same adults cannot return to the workforce. 

I'm certain that most teachers and educational staff consider themselves "essential" to our children - and I thank them again for their service. I hope they accept the risk their profession requires of them during this difficult time, the same risks dealt with constantly by others throughout society.
 
If, as the video implies, the Hamilton County Department of Education has inadequately prepared facilities, procedures, or staff for students' safe return to classrooms, then this is another (unsurprising) failure added to the depressingly long list of others.  Teachers or staff too uncomfortable with worry "about going home and exposing" their loved ones should not be forced to do so.  The HCDE should allow those who feel unsafe to go on unpaid leave until they return to the classroom. For the benefit of our students, and since some furloughed staff might never become comfortable with returning again,
 
HCDE should search aggressively for teachers and staff more at ease with the risk the pandemic presents. Under no circumstance should tax money go to educators who do not work. Instead, those funds should be redistributed to parents who must pay for childcare and private tutoring. This way, parents can get back to work and children can continue their educations. 

Morgan Smith



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