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Drew: Reopening Schools and Safety For All

By Samuetta Hill Drew

As a retired and former teacher, principal, senior administrator, union president and parent, I have heard many politicians, board members, superintendents, principals, community leaders, parents and even teachers repeat this commonly used phrase “It’s all about the children.”

In my 30-plus years as an educator, regardless of the position, I can honestly say based upon their actions versus their words, only a handful actually meant it. The vast majority had their own personal agenda and students were rarely the main beneficiaries.

As a retired educator, I shudder to think how those on the front-line of educating students must feel about the reopening of schools in the middle of a pandemic with rising numbers. I am certain they have a myriad of mixed emotions ranging from fear to confusion. What many Americans need to remember is that most of these front-line workers whether teachers, administrators or support staff like cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, etc., are also parents, spouses, daughters, and/or sons. They too want to experience long lives with their love ones. So how does one strike a balance between the need to educate students and a safe environment?

The next series of articles will address recommended safety measures to practice with the reopening of schools. The articles will address safety practices for educators, support staff, parents/guardians, and students.

Some schools have already reopened where others are only a few weeks away. Some districts around the nation, specifically many in this county, both public and private, have chosen online instruction for the first nine weeks. Other districts around the country have chosen for students to attend school on a staggered schedule, where others have opted to do a combination of online and in person classes. Some school districts remain undecided.

This week we will explore the mindset of many working in the education field around our nation. The National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen Garcia says, “It is unconscionable that educators and parents are being asked to plan for end-of-life decisions because our country has no plan for reopening schools and institutions of higher education safely.”

People Magazine ran an article after interviewing some educators around the country. They discovered many are very uneasy and anxious. They are going to lawyers to draw up their wills and do estate planning. Many have begun writing goodbye letters to their families.

According to People, John Midgett, secretary of the National Association of Estate Planners, says, “We’re seeing a lot of uptick in demands for wills, power of attorney and other healthcare directives.”

A majority of these individuals are in the high-risk range due to age and/or underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc. They have expressed a desire to make sure their families are taken care of in case they get sick or worse.

I believe it is important for those impacted by the reopening of school in any way to make sure they Keep an Eye on Safety for all involved.