February 5, 2021 Hello Teacher! Day 103
This week became pretty exciting as the superintendent sent out an email to all educators that we would be receiving the COVID19 vaccine very soon, and that we should check email several times per day as scheduling could take place anytime during the school day. The email was a hopeful reminder that science has found a way for us to start thinking about our lives without masks and social distancing. Parents immediately became excited about how the pending vaccination schedule would impact the re-opening of schools, and those parents Zoomed into the School Committee meeting to demand an opening date, “a date that the district would commit to and stick to no matter what,” as one vocal parent put it. Another parent expressed her frustration towards the teachers: “Teachers need to get back into the classroom, enough is enough, it is time to move forward with our children’s education.” All the of the School Committee members seemed to be in agreement with this statement, except for one.
This particular School Committee member has advocated for safe return to school or no return to school since the beginning of the pandemic. She is also a parent of a child in the district. She became quite agitated at the idea that parents would demand that educators put themselves back into the classroom before they were vaccinated. She was also angry that most of the parents on the Zoom were from a part of the city that has not been as negatively impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus as other parts of the city. As she explained why and how certain parts of the city have been been hit harder than others, certain parents were filling the chat box with negative comments, while others were grateful and thanked the SC member for her advocacy. Using data to support her statements about communities with a large population of BIPOC, the school committee member continued to explain that these families were suffering from the devastating physical and economic effects of the virus, and because of that, many families were choosing not to send their kids back to school. She continued to argue that the district serves many different populations, and for this reason, she could not support a return to school right now under the current circumstances.
As I already mentioned, she was alone in her stance to continue remote learning and the School Committee voted 6-1 to return to school in mid-March. There was no email from our superintendent on Friday about the return to school, so many educators were not aware of the decision, until an email was sent by our union, the EAW, expressing concern about the vote to return to school, just as the vaccination schedule was getting underway. There is no way to please everyone in this area. Some teachers have been ready to return since September, and others are adamant that they receive the vaccine before stepping foot into the classroom. As well, many parents have been ready to send their kids back since school began in the fall, while others are planning to keep their kids home for the remainder of the year because the risk of getting sick outweighs the potential benefit of being with other kids who are wearing a mask and sitting six feet apart from each other. Regardless of a person’s personal decision to return to school as we knew it, the fact that the vaccine is here, has created hope and is allowing the conversation about a time and a place where can be together again, without fear of spreading a deadly virus to each other. I realize that some folks cannot bear to hear others talk about ‘getting back to normal’, but it feels kinda nice to imagine doing all the things we used to do together, and whatever you want to call it, being together is a normal want and need. Right? So I get it when parents are demanding that schools open now because what they are begging for is that sacred space called school where kids get together to learn and laugh and play and goof off. We are all waiting patiently for that day when we can be together again safely without fear of infection, hopefully soon.