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Friday, May 14, 2021

Schools Must Fully Reopen in the Fall - The Atlantic

Schools Must Fully Reopen in the Fall - The Atlantic
Schools Must Fully Reopen in the Fall
The American Federation of Teachers, which I lead, is committed to making this happen.

Schools must open this fall. In person. Five days a week. With the space and and health safeguards to do so. The American Federation of Teachers, which I lead, is committed to making this happen.

School is where children learn best, where they play together and form relationships and acquire resilience. It’s where many children who otherwise might go hungry eat breakfast and lunch. Parents rely on schools, not only to educate their kids, but so they can work. Nearly 3 million mothers have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic.

Over the past 14 months, teachers have scrambled to redesign lessons and projects, and to create virtual field trips and labs to keep kids engaged and learning from afar. They are exhausted. They’re working longer hours, troubleshooting IT problems, and trying to connect with students despite the barriers—whether a computer screen or a plexiglass shield. School food workers kept meals coming, often feeding anyone in the community who needed it. Many school-bus drivers delivered those meals, along with schoolwork and internet hotspots so students could learn from home.

All the while, educators have yearned to be back in school, with their students. They asked only for a safe workplace during this pandemic, and the resources they and their students need to succeed.

Yet critics have scapegoated teachers and vilified their unions because of school closures during the pandemic, ignoring the extreme disparities among schools and blaming teachers for problems outside their control.

Creating safe conditions in schools during a public-health crisis is not an obstacle to reopening classrooms; it is the pathway to going back, staying back, and building trust throughout school communities.

We faced stiff headwinds. Donald Trump tweeted multiple times that schools should reopen but did nothing to help them do so safely. The Trump administration politicized safety and undermined science. As a result, from last April right up to January 19 this year, we were working to reopen schools in a climate of chaos, fear, and misinformation as the pandemic surged in wave after wave.

Thankfully, the Biden administration changed course and is fighting the pandemic with science, truth, transparency, and, yes, money. We have experienced some bumps, of course—this is a once-in-a-century pandemic. But today an overwhelming majority of schools across the country are open for in-person learning, either full- or part-time.

Vaccines have been a game changer. I hear this sentiment in educators’ voices and see it in our polling results. The fear that they will bring the virus home decreases the moment they get their shot. According to our data, 89 percent of our members are fully vaccinated or want to be. And this week we had more good news: The FDA authorized use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds. CONTINUE READING: Schools Must Fully Reopen in the Fall - The Atlantic