As school districts in North Texas work to finalize plans for students to return to school in the fall, most offer three options: in-person instruction, blended classes, and fully remote learning opportunities. The risks associated with sending kids back to school are higher in areas with a high rate of community transmission, which is a big consideration due to the spike in coronavirus cases in Texas.
The decision to remain in remote education is tougher because it creates barriers for families with two working parents and low-income families. There are also mental health consequences for remaining in remote learning, and it is likely to expand the achievement gap. For many families, school is where kids get healthy meals, access to the internet, and other vital services. Brad says, “Kids need to be in the classroom for more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. They need the opportunity to socialize and have peer interaction, or it can take a serious toll on their mental health.”
Teachers in particular have been at the center of the debate about in-person vs. virtual learning. They have addressed concerns about their own health, their students' health and the demands being placed upon them. These are common questions teachers have about the 2020 – 2021 school year:
- Many classrooms do not have desks but have tables where students sit shoulder to shoulder. How are we supposed to spread students six feet apart?
- Because students cannot share materials and students need their own personal sets of materials, who is purchasing these supplies?
- Who is providing all of the new disinfectant materials for classrooms, and are teachers expected to do the cleaning?
- Who is paying for masks and required PPE for teachers and students, and who is ensuring that these remain stocked?
- How are we ensuring proper air ventilation in school spaces?
- Why are teachers being left out of conversations? Why were questionnaires sent to families and not teachers?
- If families are given a choice between remote vs. in-person learning, will teachers?
- If teachers are forced to quarantine, will that come out of their sick pay?
- If we run out of sick days, will we stop getting paid?
- If we move to a hybrid model, how will teachers be expected to teach full time in the classroom AND plan for remote learning?
- If we move to any form of remote learning, how will we ensure equitable access for our students?
COVID testing for all students is not possible for most schools. Taking students' temperature at school also may not be easily executed. Schools are going to need to establish ways to identify students with fever or other symptoms of illness. Schools will also need to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on proper disinfecting and sanitizing classrooms and common areas.
“It’s a difficult decision as to whether or not to return back to the classroom. We need to be careful about sending our students back to school if it is not a safe, nurturing, and productive environment for both teachers and students,” Brad says.
While some school districts are making the decisions themselves and others are letting the parents and students decide, we hope you feel comfortable and confident in the 2020 school year. We know it won’t be perfect for everyone, but if we stay positive and work together, we can push through these hard times and succeed!
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.