Link: “Teachers and Their Unions Are Demanding Truly Safe Schools Reopening — Not “Ignoring Science”

Original post found at: https://jacobinmag.com/2021/02/teachers-unions-schools-covid-reopening/

Thought this was a good piece. The article talks about what’s happening in the US, but we had a similar debate here in Australia as well. Business groups and the conservative federal government insisted that schools had to stay open to provide daycare for working parents’ kids, while teachers’ unions, most epidemiologists, and state governments wanted kids to learn from home.

There are so many reasons why remote learning is the safest move in areas where Covid-19 is rife. We know that while children are at a lower risk than the average of serious illness, they still do contract and transmit the virus, and schools could hardly be built to better facilitate contagion if they tried. Cram 25+ people elbow-to-elbow into a room with poor ventilation, either use reverse-cycle air conditioning or tell people they can’t do that, instead requiring school to take place entirely in the freezing cold in the winter, have hundreds of people intermingling constantly, guilt-trip and bully anyone who tries to take sick days so as to ensure maximum infection-spreading… yeah, awesome safe environment you’ve got there.

And while it’s obviously important to talk about children’s needs, what I never see from these “open the schools!!!” fanatics is any discussion of the needs of teachers, or anyone else who works in schools. Children may be less likely to develop severe disease from the virus, but adults working in schools are not. Many of those workers will have pre-existing health conditions that put them at higher risk, or have close loved ones (spouses, parents, etc.) with such conditions. And you can’t re-open schools for children without also putting all of those adult workers in the same environment. As a casual relief teacher with a disability and vulnerable loved ones, I would not have wanted to accept work when the virus wasn’t under control here (so it was fortunate there was JobKeeper to cover my income and schools were mostly closed). If I were in the US… I shudder to think.

Of course, it’s important to continue outreach and make sure vulnerable kids still get their needs met. I think it’s disingenuous for politicians and business leaders to claim that teachers don’t care about this, when teachers are the major group who actually do that. In Victoria at least, vulnerable kids and the kids of essential workers still went to school, which operated with a skeleton crew of workers who were not at high risk themselves. In general, I think it’s school staff – not politicians – who are best-placed to determine what measures hit the right balance between supporting students and avoiding unnecessary risk. That’s why I support these teachers’ unions 100%.

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a socialist and a feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.