schools is an ongoing, contentious issue among parents, elected
officials, and school communities. It has teachers threatening to not
show up at school unless they receive vaccinations for COVID-19, the
necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), appropriate
ventilation, and spacing alterations for their classrooms.
issues are becoming less volatile as mayors, school districts, and
politicians agree to these demands. But a closer analysis of this
controversy reveals that the primary divide is along the lines of
class and race. Middle-class parents and their political
representatives are the primary proponents of reopening initiatives.
the proposition is presented to the broader public, however, it is
done in the name of poor parents of color and claims that their
children will be the greatest beneficiaries of a return to in-person
instruction since they are trailing their middle-class counterparts
academically. Almost never mentioned is the fact that this academic
disparity persists when both groups are in school and has been the
case for generations.
print and broadcast media reiterate this message with editorials,
Op-Ed columns, letters-to-the-editor, and selected profiles of
advocates for a prompt return to in-person education. In order to get
a handle on this matter, we examine key components of the proposals
for a wholesale return to school for daily and/or several times
weekly in-person teaching.
Wearing and PPE:
It is assumed that all returning students will wear masks and that
masks will be widely available. This is not entirely true since
teachers have refused to return to school physically based on their
safety concerns, including the lack of masks and other PPE (face
shields, disinfectant, adequate ventilation systems, etc.) for
themselves and their students. Schools serving the poorest students
are especially deficient in supplies of these products.
The spacing required to prevent transmission is currently in dispute.
Originally, 6-feet was the scientifically determined distance for
everyone. But a March 22, 2021, Wall
Op-Ed stated, “The
old standard of 6 feet has been replaced by a 3-foot minimum, which
will make it much more feasible for many school districts to reopen
for full-time instruction in person.”
revision in social distancing only applies to schools and not to the
broader society and can only be implemented when the coronavirus
infections are low and when schools are taking other measures. The
initial 6-feet distancing mandate has been alleged to be based on
imperfect research suppositions. But it is becoming more apparent
that this new social distancing adjustment is based more on politics
and convenience than on carefully calibrated studies that include
addition, even if the 3-feet separation is sustained, there is no
guarantee for most schools that there will be enough teachers and
support staff to accommodate the student populations even if they
attend school on staggered schedules. The Centers for Disease
Control’s (CDC) guidance appears to be influenced more by
politics than by science.
It is also rarely acknowledged that teachers’ COVID-19
infections largely result from teacher-to-teacher contacts.
Therefore, it is even more urgent for all teachers to receive their
coronavirus shots as soon as possible, especially those with
underlying health conditions.
and School Ventilation:
Regular testing of teachers and students in school settings is
frequently placed on the back burner in terms of making schools safe
for a return to in-person instruction. There is little attention to
the mechanics and costs of the aforementioned safety requirements.
Except in middle-class and wealthy school districts, it does not
a segment on last Sunday’s CBS
an examination of the Marietta, Georgia School District’s
return to in-person instruction revealed that testing for students
and teachers, using the most sophisticated equipment, occurred daily.
The school buildings were also modern and up-to-date with
state-of-the art air circulation and HVAC systems. And the district
possesses the financial resources to make any modifications necessary
to prevent COVID-19 infections.
is not the case for most public schools in Camden, Elizabeth, and
Newark, New Jersey; Los Angeles and Compton, California; Gary,
Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Durham, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia;
and hundreds of other low-wealth school districts across the country.
The challenge of reopening schools is rife with exaggeration and
outright false information in order to achieve political objectives
couched in a positively promoted education policy.
poor and working-class parents, overall, remain opposed to their
children’s quick return to in-person teaching. As the
overwhelming majority of these mothers and fathers are essential
workers, they know firsthand the dangers of the coronavirus. Many
have experienced it firsthand and have watched their co-workers
perish from this pandemic.
schools need to be reopened safely and soon, teachers, low-income
parents in particular, and the rest of us need to be mindful of the
rationales that are being used to expedite the plans that are being
put forth. There are multiple agendas at hand, and not all of them
are in the best interests of teachers and students, particularly
those who are poor.