WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we continue listening to Ohioans sharing their feelings about the upcoming school year, and the plans for reopening schools.
Anonymous from Westerville
I think that we are all desperate to get back to some sense of “normal life,” and that is reflected in the push to get back to in-person school. Are we ignoring scientific data because social and economic concerns weigh more heavily on our minds than the risk of spreading this terrible disease?
I am a high school science teacher, and I know that in-person learning is so much better in so many ways, but I also anticipate that I and many of my students and colleagues will contract the virus and will share it with family members, even with safeguards in place.
In high school, students and staff are exposed to a new group of people every hour, and expecting teenagers to follow the rules 100% of the time is very wishful thinking. Yet here we are pushing ahead, hoping for the best, unprepared for the worst.
Anonymous from Clintonville
I worry for my granddaughter, her teachers, the school staff and all of the school parents. The pressure they all feel is two-fold: the pressure of not having had much, if any, human contact with each other at school since March, and the pressure being put on all of them by politicians who seem far more concerned with restarting the economy than with making sure school buildings and staff are well-equipped and funded to handle even a limited and safe reopening.
With no vaccines, not enough or fast enough testing and tracing, this push to reopen schools is not just grossly unfair to teachers and staff, it is inherently something that runs a range between risky and deadly. It is darkly laughable that Ohio's governor announced that $300 million in federal recovery dollars will be directed at schools. I wonder if anyone has bothered to notice that $300 million is exactly the amount that was taken away from schools in the proposed state budget.
One hates to be cynical, but how can we not be? We already expect so much from our schools and teachers and now we have leaders wanting to herd them back into school buildings with no added support for PPE's, sanitation supplies, plexiglass barriers or even a bare bones plan for doing so to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The school my granddaughter attends in Worthington is a melting pot of kids and families from diverse ethnic backgrounds and incomes. The schools has an amazing and wonderful group of teachers and staff, and they all have families as well. To put them all at risk with no clear plans or the funding to carry out a plan is unacceptable.
Anonymous from Westerville
Never in 28 years of teaching have I been afraid to go to school. It is infuriating that school boards are meeting virtually to send staff and students back to school in person. I do not see how anyone thinks this will work! How do they think that this is safe? People will get sick. It's going to happen. I would be a complete mess if a student got sick because I decided to meet. How could they live with themselves if someone in their district dies?
I know that online learning is not ideal, but the consequences aren't nearly as dire as reopening in person and people dying! How many deaths are acceptable? Is my life of so little value that they are willing to send me into a position where I could get sick?
There is no danger of them getting sick in a virtual meeting. Students need us, and they need each other. We need to support our students and give them coping skills and look out for kids who are lonely or who have terrible living conditions. We need accountability, but please don't put us harm's way.
Anonymous from Worthington
I am a teacher and a mother of three, and I am horrified by the thought that we are planning to go back to school mid-August. I understand that people need their kids in school so they can work. I need and desperately want to go back to work with my students too, but it is not safe.
It is shocking how quickly people went from praising teachers in the spring, to expecting us to risk our lives each day starting in a few weeks. Whether the classes are split in half or not, I am exposed to all of the students. My children will be exposed in their classrooms as well. The four of us will expose each other and my husband. I refuse to expose another family members or friends, so we will continue to stay away.
When I drive around in the neighborhood of the school where I work, I see countless families who are not social distancing. I see the same in my neighborhood. My family has been social distancing from everyone since March. It is a slap in the face to expect us to go back in person when people are not taking precautions right now, before it is safe.
People talk about the low risk to students, but what about teachers, bus drivers, and other staff? What if it's not as safe for kids as people think? Kids need to go back for social emotional development (in addition to academics), but how well will they do when their teachers and classmates end up in the hospital, or worse? The failure of our leadership in this country should not put the lives of all teachers and students on the line. I am disgusted.
Anonymous from Knox County
I saw a protestor with a sign the other day, "Why should we go back to school when you won't listen to the educated?" and that sums up the problem here. Knox County COVID numbers are low, but a very vocal minority, plus or minus 30% of residents, refuse to wear masks or social distance. Interestingly, every surrounding county – to which half our population commutes on a daily basis – is at level 2 or 3, and masks are mandated.
Instead of using simple preventative measures to reduce community spread in Knox County, these folks have aligned to make us the hotbed of stupidity. I am gravely concerned that these fools, many of whom hold positions of power and proudly declare themselves pro-life, are going to send kids, staff, and teachers marching back to on-site instruction and we'll have a significant increase in cases.
Schools could reopen with some accommodations: outdoor learning, small pods of students on a rotating schedule, a mask requirement. None of that will happen here because too many of the general public believe that the CDC is faking COVID death certificates for government money and conspiring to take away everybody's guns and Bibles. That's what we're dealing with here. They'd rather "own the libs" than believe the science right in front of their faces.
How do you feel about the upcoming school year? WOSU wants to hear from students, teachers and parents about your thoughts and experiences.
Answer this question using the form below, and try to keep below 1,000 words. Your response may be edited for length and clarity.