Texas Governor Greg Abbott unveiled a school reopening plan in June — requiring in-person instruction for five days a week starting in August. While parents can have the individual choice to opt in to distance learning, rather than in-class instructions, teachers will be required to report to the workplace in person no matter what. As a result, many teachers in Texas are extremely worried about their health and their livelihood — to the extent that Steven Poole, the Executive Director of the United Educators Association, sent Abbott an open letter urging him to delay the start of the in-person school year and begin the school year, instead, with virtual instruction to maintain the safety of teachers. Now, Abbott has said that if schools stay virtual for more than three weeks, they’ll lose state funding.
“Current guidelines from the Texas Education Agency are inadequate to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and staff. The mandate of in-person school five days a week will make it impossible to implement many of the TEA’s recommendations including social distancing on buses and in classrooms.” He goes on to state that many teachers in Texas have underlying health conditions — and while parents can choose to keep their children at home if they or their kids have health issues, teachers are still required to be at work, putting themselves at risk, regardless of if children are in school.
Indeed, many teachers have expressed on social media and in other platforms that they are concerned about their livelihood should they go back to school. In early July, the president of the Sarasota, Florida, teacher’s association said that teachers would die if schools reopened without proper protections. “Teachers and staff are being put on the front lines with doctors and nurses…. And they haven’t been trained how to work with contagious individuals and some of them are going to die,” she said. A superintendent of an Arizona district of a teacher who died, despite following all precautions for instructions, suggested that more of the 1.5 million teachers who have conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or obesity will die. “We’re going to lose a lot of teachers if they bring the kids back again.”
In Utah, school districts are preparing pre-written letters in case a teacher or a student dies. Some teachers have taken to Twitter to lament the fact that, in current conditions, some teachers are just as much preparing for the school year with lesson plans as they are arranging wills, medical power of attorney, and ensuring their affairs are in order in case they get sick and die of COVID-19 because they are teaching in a classroom. Some teachers, of course, won’t go back at all. Some 1 in 5 teachers plan on retiring if schools reopened, compounding the crisis.