Georgia Teacher Upset With School Reopenings​

Published by Fiifi Frimpong on

Georgia Teacher Upset With School Reopenings

As schools reopen across Georgia, school districts are allowing important decisions to be heavily influenced by parents while teacher’s safety concerns go unheard. 

The decision to abruptly begin the school year amid the coronavirus pandemic left teachers in Gwinnett county surprised due to initial plans from district officials stating classes would begin virtually.      

A Gwinnett County teacher, whose identity will remain anonymous due to job security but whose identity has been verified by our editors, said the district’s plan for starting the school year changed four times in a month, and parents were addressed throughout the whole process, not teachers. 

“The district did not give any say to the teachers,” the Gwinnett county teacher said. “We finished our first and second week of pre-planning and training online. Then, it was announced kids will be back at the end of August.”

The sudden announcement came after Gwinnett county told teachers all classes would be virtual. The Gwinnett county teacher also said she and her colleagues disliked the unstable procedures that put workers at risk for being exposed to COVID. 

Decisions to reopen schools in Georgia are split between parents and teachers. When districts announced in-person classes would begin, parents were given the opportunity to send their children to classrooms if they wished to do so. Teachers voiced their displeasure with the decision even with schools mandating temperature checks before entering buildings, partitioned desks and mask requirements.

In-person classes resuming during the pandemic has also forced teachers to take the year off due to safety concerns. A female Sandy Springs preschool teacher, who will remain anonymous, resigned from the position after her school decided to begin the year in August with in-person classes Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. 

She said she has spoken to at least 10 other teachers who expressed concerns and considered resigning. 

“It seemed too risky,” she said. “Doctors do not know enough [about COVID-19] for me to take a risk. Teachers have to get closer to kids while they are breathing and coughing. Little kids do not know how to catch their cough. How can you get a 3 year old to wear a mask all day?”

Teachers are still fearful that their schools may experience an outbreak during the year. The Cherokee County school district ordered nearly 1,200 students and staff members in the district to quarantine. 

District Four board member Everton Blair Jr. acknowledged that “a large part of the decision” for students to return to schools was based on parent feedback. 

“I do think it’s important that we change some of our decision-making processes so that teacher’s voices are a lot more robust and included on the front end,” Blair Jr. said. 

Blair mentioned most of his critique regarding school reopening is “outside of the school district’s purview”. He said there is only so much the school system could have done with the funding allocated to them. 

“We could have had a more comprehensive testing and contact tracing strategy which would have reduced the community spread much earlier and we could have been planning a safer school reopening with the money we needed,” Blair Jr. said. “Knowing that we needed much more funding in order to keep a socially distant, safe school building, we could be doing a lot of that. And we are going to need to do that next year. 

Reopening plans across different districts are still fluid. An elementary school teacher from Cobb County said they were informed on Sept. 3 phase one for reopening is planned to begin on Oct. 5. This will allow pre-k through fifth-grade students and pre-k through 12-grade special education low incidence students to have the option to return for full-day instruction. After school program will also resume for students in face-to-face classrooms on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  

She mentioned the school does not require masks to be worn, but it is suggested. 

“Masks should be required,” she said. “I do not know how they will do this with a big group of kids. I am happy to go back, but you never know.”

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Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong is a 23-year-old graduate student at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY in New York City. He is a multimedia journalist and hopes to specialize his work covering sports teams in America. He is usually searching for food recipes to prepare a meal, but always ends up ordering takeout from his favorite Mexican restaurant. In his free time, Frimpong enjoys attending New York Yankee games and hip-hop concerts.

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