Union demands too many: Open up the schools now! | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Almanac Online |


Local Blogs

By Diana Diamond

Union demands too many: Open up the schools now!

Uploaded: Feb 21, 2021

Should teachers be prioritized over others to get the coronavirus vaccine? Most of us would probably say yes, BUT… and there’s usually a “but” about most issues.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked the same question, and he said (paraphrased), that teachers should get a shot but the teachers’ unions are demanding that no school open until every teacher in the country gets the vaccination. That’s a sine qua non approach (essential condition to open) abut there’s no way we can get vaccines quickly to all teachers nationwide, he added.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), wrote a column in an AFT advertisement in the NYT Sunday and said 54 percent of her teachers worry that they may get infected with COVID-19 and 71 percent fear they could infect someone in their family, although most teachers are willing to return if increased safety provisions were in place. Those provisions include improved ventilation in classrooms (an expensive project which states will have trouble funding), mask-wearing, student distancing, hand washing, professional teacher training to meet the new challenges, and providing money for summer classes to readopt the children to “classroom learning.” Unions’ safety needs include mitigation strategies to prevent the spread, including vaccine prioritization for teachers and school staff, accommodation for pre-existing conditions, enabling in-person learning, and direct relief to families meeting the brunt of COVID-19

Those are a broad, costly and time-consuming array of union demands, some hard to get in place. In total, this is a ridiculous way to get back to educating our kids in a real classroom.

I talked to several friends, some of whom were teachers or had family members who were teachers. “The teachers didn’t sign up for this hazardous duty,” most of them said.

And what about health care workers or grocery clerks, I asked. The response: “Health care workers know they would be working with sick patients and grocery clerks – well, they are limiting the number of people in a store at one time,” was the response of several.

So, let’s instead look at the science of returning kids to classrooms.

I can easily agree that all teachers in a school should be vaccinated – if they want to. But scientists are finding that in-classroom teaching is much less risky that anticipated. A NYT article said studies show that schools can be safely reopened with common-sense precautions (masks, some distancing, hand washing). The Center for Disease Control and Protection recently reported that “studies have been found that “in-person learning in schools has not been associated with community transmission, while a Duke University study showed that “within-school infections are extremely rare.”

My primary concern is for the kids. Many have lost almost of year of in-class learning, and most kids and their parents have said video learning – well, “it sucks.” Parents see their kids inactive, bored and depressed. They’ve forgotten much of what they learned in some subjects, like math.

I tried some outside-the-box thinking:

• What if the K-7 teachers taught from home but the kids came to their school classroom? A school could hire a class monitor to keep order in the room, hand out assignments, collect reports, etc. That way the kids would learn more – from the teacher and from each other, and those kids without zoom accessibility at home could start learning again by attending school?

• What if the rate of coronavirus cases continues to decline? Then in June, classes could begin and the 2021-22 school year could have three semesters, as a way to get back to catch-up?

• What if schools had split sessions – half the students came in the morning and half in the afternoon, resulting in fewer kids in each class every day?

• What if teachers were assured that just one vaccine shot is enough? With the two-dose vaccines, if I am a teacher and got my first shot tomorrow, I could not return to the classroom for almost two months – four weeks between shots and three weeks until the second shot takes effect. That’s a long wait.

If their unions demand no classes occur until all teachers get fully vaccinated, that means 1n average of 25 kids per class per day will not be going to school, and one of their parents will not be going to work – 50 people per day.

Do the math, teachers’ unions. If 50 people are affected for one teacher’s concerns, what’s the societal effect? If 25 kids per class learn a lot less during a school year because of closed schools, what will that portend for a so-called educated society? What is the best solution for the greatest number?

Science and data are showing that schools can reopen. Educators and psychiatrists are telling us that kids are having health problems and depression because they must stay home all the time. So, open up the schools – now!