This is happening all over the country.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

The Trump administration is eager to reopen schools in part because parents can’t return to work and be efficient economic engines without childcare. But in many states, it’s proving difficult if not impossible to send kids back to school safely because businesses reopened too early, and the health system is now once again dealing with a surge in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The crisis over when and how to reopen schools underscores a central contradiction in American society: It can’t function without the public school system, which doesn’t have the funding and resources to follow the basic health and safety guidelines that would make reopening schools during a global pandemic feasible.

Teachers are quick to acknowledge that remote, online learning isn’t nearly as effective as being in the classroom, but with coronavirus cases rising all over the country, many don’t feel prepared to go back, either. A lack of national leadership on the schools issue has left states to give orders and school districts to make piecemeal plans that many teachers don’t understand or trust.

While some school staffers feel ready to go back, others are so frustrated and afraid that they’ve floated the idea of organizing a national walkout similar to the 2018 and 2019 teacher strikes over low pay. But as public employees, teachers in some states are legally barred from striking, and some are afraid that breaking their contract by resigning at the last minute or organizing “sick-outs” as a form of protest could lead to them losing not just their jobs, including insurance and salary, but their teaching certifications and therefore their ability to work at all.

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Some teachers are worried that students won’t wear masks, or bring them to school, or perhaps even be able to afford them. Teachers in Dallas were told students would wear masks, but one kindergarten teacher was skeptical of that promise. “They said we’d have masks and face shields and everyone is going to be covered, but it’s a school district — sometimes we don’t have soap,” he said.

He was also worried about having the room to distance kids and the staff to monitor them, especially given the number of teachers he’s heard are considering early retirement to avoid the health risks. The Minnesota-based teacher had similar concerns, saying masks are a manageable problem in her district compared to the issue of space.

“Kids will wear T-shirts over their faces. Volunteers will make masks if they need to — community fundraising and mask drives and sewing circles and all that stuff,” she said. “But plexiglass shields around kids? Or being able to put them 6 feet apart? That’s where the budgeting stuff would have to come in, and as far as school districts, we don’t have the money for that.”

The situation she describes stands in stark contrast to some schools in places like Indonesia, China, and Thailand where students are temperature screened, tested for COVID-19, and provided with plexiglass barriers and disinfection chambers.

The Republicans have been chipping away at the public school system for decades now, and suddenly they feel entitled to push them back into classrooms without the protections they will need to keep themselves and their children safe. 

In the past, the Republicans were simply killing the public school system metaphorically, but now they are planning to do it in reality by killing off our teachers. 

This must be stopped.