For Whom Does The School Bell Toll?
For Whom Does The School Bell Toll?
It certainly doesn’t toll for students in a growing number of districts, thanks to the paranoia surrounding Covid-19. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen teachers sending copies of their wills to government officials. Others carried what looked like coffins in protests against having to–gasp–go back to work. Now, as the school year is supposed to start around the nation, school districts find themselves caught between the rock of government Covid regulations and the hard place of teachers who have decided they don’t want to do their jobs.
Arizona is one of the latest states to be hit with teachers protesting having to report for in-school classes. Some are doing the education version of “Blue Flu” while others are resigning. The common factor is both instances is who the losers are. The first are the students who aren’t giong to get the education they should. The second are the taxpayers because each day these districts are closed means less money from the state and federal governments to the school district. So either districts cut programs and increase class size or taxpayers pony up more of their hard earned money to make up the difference.
According to Forbes, teaches in two Arizon districts have refused to return to the classroom. 109 of the approximately 250 teachers in the J.O. Combs district “put in for absences” for today, which would have been the first day of school. This left the district with two choices: hire substitutes or delaying the opening of school.
Guess which course the district took?
That’s right. They delayed opening. Not that anyone can blame them. It would take a miracle to find that many substitute teachers. Of course, while the teachers are self-righteously clutching their masks and practicing their social distancing (hah!), where does this leave the students? It leaves them wondering if school will begin on Tuesday or if they will see a repeat performance.
It leaves parents scrambling to make arrangements for their kids so they can go to work. (Hmm, funny how everyone else can go to work but teachers can’t and don’t consider themselves “essential” workers.) It also leaves parents with the unenviable position of having to explain to their kids why Mrs. Smith isn’t in class and doing her job.
At least those teachers only called in sick for the day–so far. In Queen Creek Unified district, four teachers resigned after the school board voted to reopen schools. The district has had 43 resignations since May.
The Forbes article is like reading a laundry list of school districts around the nation facing walkouts, strikes, and more over Covid-19 fears. Lost in all of this are the combined impacts of such actions on the school district, the tax base, parents and, most of all, the students.
In Salt Lake County, 79 teachers have resigned due to Covid-19 fears.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers will vote later this week on whether or not to call for a “safety strike”. This despite a state law prohibiting teachers from striking. WTF?!?
Another example is the former president of the Queen Creek Teachers Association. Jacob Frantz, a high school teacher in the district, resigned as a teacher over Covid-19 fears. According to him, despite the safeguards put in place by the district, the kids–and him–would be put in danger by returning to the classroom. So he waited until the week before school started to resign.
A week before!
Pardon me for being a bit incensed, but if he was that concerned, why the hell didn’t he resign earlier? Especially since he is sooooo upset he wouldn’t be able to see his close to 200 students this year? If he’s so concerned about them, why not give the district time to find a teacher who would wear his mask, follow social distancing and be there to teach the kids?
I’ll tell you why. Because he wanted to make a bloody statement. Once again proving the message is more important than the reality of the situation.
And the reality here is that Covid-19, while a real issue and a danger for some, isn’t the world-ending pandemic so many would like us to believe. But the economic, social and education damage being committed in its name could do harm that will last generations if we aren’t careful.
Of course, teachers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the situation. Some districts are as well. Under constraints, be they locally mandated or the result of state mandates, can not open to in-person classes. Sports and extra curricular activities have been curtailed or canceled for the semester. That means a hit to the district’s pocketbook, even if you don’t look at the loss of state and federal funds for classroom attendance.
So school districts are getting creative. The Durham Public Schools are a perfect–if you’ll pardon the use of that word–example. Because of Covid-19 and concerns that in-class teaching would put staff and students in danger, the district is going to distance learning only, at least for the beginning of the school year.
But never fret, citizens of Durham. If you are willing to pony up a $35 registration fee and then $140/week, you can send your child to a “learning center” at one of six schools in the district.
Opening our school year remotely is the right decision to protect our students and staff from COVID-19,” said DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga, WRAL reported. “However, there are many families in Durham who need additional support during the school day. It will take a community effort to support each of these children, but DPS is doing its part.”
So, no school but you can pay the school to act as a day care center for yout kids.
The DPS Learning Centers will provide a safe space to complete online learning, meals and snacks, and social-emotional activities. Students will be assigned to small pods with daily wellness screenings, distribution and required use of facemasks, and planned circulation and seating of six feet social distancing.”
And so I find myself asking why those same safeguards can’t be put into place so those parents who want their kids to receive in-person instruction can bring their kids to school and know they will have a teacher to answer their questions, supervise their work and, well, teach.
At some point, this country needs to get back to common sense. We have to look at the cummulative impact the Covid-19 fear and shutdowns will have on our economy, our mental health and the education of our children. School districts bear a large part of the burden when it comes to education. They should have had viable plans in place months ago instead of waiting to see what happened. That includes having a plan to distribute technology to the students–and teachers–in a way that made sense and didn’t have them waiting in lines all day as happened in a Dallas suburb last week.
But the responsibility also lies on the teachers. They should not be applauded for waiting until the last minute to resign becuase they don’t agree with their district’s back-to-school plans. If they could protest and take to social media a month or more ago wondering who would explain to their children why the teacher died of Covid, they could have tendered their resignation then, giving districts a change to hire someone in their place.
It is time for folks in this country to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions. Yes, if you or someone in your household has a medical condition that puts you at risk, the district should work with you. But if you are doing your best lemming imitation, not only no but hell no. You signed a contract and are now breaking it. Do not expect sympathy or benefits because of it.
Who knows, kids. Maybe you’ll get back to school next year. But for now, when asked for whom the school bell tolls, tell them not for you.
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