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Friday, May 29, 2020

Randi Weingarten: Despite coronavirus, how schools can reopen safely: Teachers' union

Despite coronavirus, how schools can reopen safely: Teachers' union

Coronavirus anxiety is real, but schools have to try to reopen: Q&A with teachers' union
It’s not good for kids to be home like this, says Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers.

This week, as U.S. coronavirus deaths topped 100,000 and President Donald Trump tweeted that “schools in our country should be opened ASAP,” the USA TODAY Editorial Board spoke with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The teachers’ union has issued detailed guidelines for reopening schools. Questions and answers have been edited for length, clarity and flow:
Q. Do you agree with President Trump that schools should reopen as soon as possible?
A. Trump has created this false narrative that people either want to stay in place, locked down, or you open things up as if it was last June. So, no, I don’t agree with him. I’m actually less sanguine this week about opening than I was three or four weeks ago (based on) what happened at Lake of the Ozarks (in Missouri) and other places. Because if we have community spreaders and a second wave (of infections) before the summer ends, then I think all bets are off.
Q. What have we learned about online education?
A. Remote-only education is something that we all know has not been good for kids. People have tried really hard, and they’ve worked really hard, and they’ve turned on the dime in amazing ways. I think people really respect teachers now for what they’ve tried to do. But (online education) is not a substitute for the relationship building and the alchemy that happens in schools and in classrooms. Even though you’ll probably find a kid or two who will excel in it, this remote way of educating kids is not great.
Q. Is there a point this summer when we should know whether schools are going to open on time for the fall semester?
A. A lot of schools in the South start opening Aug. 1. So you’re going to see schooling. I think your question is, what’s going to happen in terms of school buildings? And I think we’re going to know that based upon two facts. Will we get this (financial aid) package (from Congress)? Because if we don’t get that package, then school buildings are not going to reopen in the way that they need to. The second real issue, which is a big uncertainty, is whether there’s going to be a second wave. If a second wave crops up that you can’t contain, then schools won’t open in September. I want schools to open safely and responsibly, and as a union, we are doing everything in our power to prepare people to do that and to try to make it work.
Q. Tell us about AFT’s plan for reopening.
A. We talked to a bunch of epidemiologists and people from (foundations). We talked to doctors. We had our members involved. And we realized that there is a CONTINUE READING: Despite coronavirus, how schools can reopen safely: Teachers' union