Coronavirus Concerns Grow as American Schools Reopen
“This push to open schools is guaranteed to fail.”
Many of the states to have the first schools reopen in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic have faced multiple growing pains. The growing laundry list of concerns will strengthen calls for teachers’ unions to strike if schools do not implement proper precautionary measures.
Two students in North Paulding High School in Georgia were suspended after they shared pictures and videos online showing the school packed and few masks in sight.
Audio leaked of an announcement from the school’s principal where he said “anything going around social media that is negative in light without permission, that’s photography, that’s video. There will be consequences for those students.
According to the Washington Post, Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott sent a letter to parents that said the photo “didn’t look good” but that masks in school were a “personal choice” for students.
Before schools started back after the summer break, the chair of the Paulding County Board of Education called the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for schools to reopen “complete crap.”
Messaging from the federal government has paved the way for misinformation and a lack of unified guidelines for schools to follow. Social media companies removed a post from President Donald Trump where he claimed children are “almost immune” from the coronavirus.
President Trump’s comments on childhood immunity coincided with the youngest victim of coronavirus to die in the state of Georgia. A seven-year-old boy from Savannah, Georgia died from complications from the virus despite having no underlying health conditions.
The Coastal Health Department told WSB-TV Atlanta, “every COVID-19 death we report is tragic, but to lose someone so young is especially heart-breaking. We know that older individuals and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk of complications, but this is a disease everyone should take seriously.”
Georgia has not been the only state to contend with early struggles with reopening schools. One week into schools reopening in Mississippi, 116 students were sent home to quarantine after six students and one staff member tested positive for the virus.
Another Mississippi school district is fearing an outbreak after a 42-year-old teacher died while quarantining at home with COVID-19 symptoms. The teacher and football coach, Nacoma Jones, was out sick from school, but he did have contact with students at football practice last week.
The spread of coronavirus within schools is not unexpected considering the high levels of the virus in many communities throughout the country.
“This push to open schools is guaranteed to fail,” Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and molecular virologist, told The Atlantic. “In communities with high transmission, it’s inevitable that COVID-19 will enter the schools. Within two weeks of opening schools in communities with high virus transmission, teachers will become ill. All it will take is for a single teacher to become hospitalized with COVID and everything will shut down.”
With warning signs in states where schools end summer break early, there are rumblings of a wider teacher’s strike.
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, gave individual unions the ability to strike.
Weingarten said in a speech in late July, “if authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve… nothing is off the table.”
She also highlighted coronavirus hotspots like Arizona, Florida, and Texas as the most likely to see teacher safety strikes.
The Chicago Teachers Union was considering striking while waiting on Chicago Public Schools’ decision on whether to adopt a hybrid model. But shortly after the threat of a strike began brewing, Chicago Public Schools announced they would start with all-remote learning in the fall.