WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we heard from Ohioans sharing their feelings about the impending school year, and the state's plans on how to safely reopen classes.
Anonymous from Upper Arlington
As an intervention specialist, I so badly want to be back teaching in the classroom as it is almost impossible to effectively do my job and help my students grow and meet their goals for in an online setting.
However, as cases continue to rise and the number of younger people getting the virus increases, I am very concerned about my health and well-being, as well as the health of my students and their families. I’m very conflicted on what to do. I feel like I have to choose between my health and my job.
It’s also becoming increasingly evident by many schools’ plans that teachers’ health is not being taken into consideration at all. It’s disheartening to see so many people say teachers who are apprehensive about the fall just don’t want to do their job or how we should take a pay cut since parents have had to be more involved and hands on.
It’s an incredibly challenging, emotional time to be a teacher right now, especially for a teacher who is a parent or caregiver as well. It’s hard to see so many people lack a complete sense of empathy.
Schools should be free to open up once state and local leaders feel free to meet in person to have the discussion, instead of deciding through remote video conference calls.
Anonymous from Columbus
I am kindergarten teacher at a small private school in Columbus. While in a normal year, our school struggles with low enrollment, we are currently in the unique and lucky position of having smaller classes and enough building space to keep distance between students and faculty. Furthermore, we were able to use our resources to have an as effective as possible online learning experience throughout last spring.
Despite all of these benefits, I know that it will be impossible to consistently maintain all the guidelines of in-person learning: six feet of distance, face coverings, hand washing, etc. Even some small slip-ups that are extremely likely to occur could potentially have catastrophic consequences. I do wish that we could be in-person. Online learning, while somewhat possible last spring, was not a satisfactory replacement for the classroom experience.
However, I don't see how endangering the lives of children, faculty, parents, family members – really, anyone who comes in contact with the school and its occupants – would be beneficial to anyone. Schools should not be reopening without the guarantee of all necessary resources for all schools: public, private and charter.
Even with that guarantee (which we don't currently have), there will certainly be outbreaks and people will become severely sick and very likely will die. The safest option is to continue with online learning until we know it is safe to return to in-person instruction.
Trust me, as a kindergarten teacher, I know it is not ideal. However, I prefer to come up with wild and creative solutions to solve the distance learning struggles than to risk my life or put others at risk in the classroom. It's just not worth it.
Anonymous from Worthington
I think that opening schools is beneficial for students learning. Still, I understand that it may put staff at risk and will respect the decisions of schools.
Nick Bednar from Westerville
Just like I’ve felt through so much of this pandemic, I’m pretty scared about schools reopening. I’m a student at Ohio State, and though they’ve made a plan to help keep students safe even with in-person classes being offered, it just doesn’t seem like enough to me. This is one of the largest campuses in the country, and having that many people in one spot is surely just asking for the virus to spread.
I’m really thankful that my specific degree program is fairly lax for its requirements; I’ve already taken every class I strictly need to take, and the rest are just bonus experiences to finish my credit hour requirements. That means I’ve been able to register for only online classes next semester. I can stay away from campus altogether, even as it remains largely operational. Still, I have friends, family, coworkers, and professors I care about that don’t have such a luxury, and I know I’m going to be worried about them no matter what.
I simply don’t trust that such protocols are going to be uniformly enforced, either. We can say that masks are required, and public surfaces will be regularly disinfected, and classroom sizes will be restricted and socially distanced. For a university this size, though, can we really expect that every single operating part of this equation is going to be followed? That no student or instructor will ever be caught without a mask? That every classroom will be cleaned between every class session? It’s naïve to assume so, and even one break in this plan is enough to render much of it pointless.
None of it is easy, and none of us can expect it to be. But ultimately, health is the most important thing. Anyone in an educational institution can be a carrier, whether student or worker, and trying to maintain adequate hygiene to avoid infecting more people is not feasible.
Susan Schubert from Pickerington
The schools need to be extremely careful. I recommend split schedules to reduce the number of students at one time. Teachers need plastic shields as well as masks. The youngest children won't be able to keep safe distance and wear masks.
How do you feel about schools reopening in the fall? 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.