As public schools across the United States prepare for a return to school this fall, teachers and school officials have raised concerns over mixed signals and conflicting data about the dangers facing both teachers and students.
In Brigid Nease, Superintendant of the Unified Harwood School District, published an impassioned open letter titled “What Is Really Behind the HUUSD Reopening Plan? It’s Time to Speak Out” in which she pleads for reasoned discussion based on data – not conjecture. She also notes that, so far, the state and its public schools have done the hard work of planning a ‘back-to-school’ scheme but notes that these are “plans that they cannot guarantee they can staff, and even if by some miracle one can, it is highly unlikely they will be able to sustain it.”
The frustration and anxiety has led to another epidemic – an epidemic of departures from the teaching and staffing of Vermont schools. As Nease notes, “Letters of resignation, requests for leaves of absence, Family Medical Leave (FMLA), Emergency Family Medical Leave (EFML), Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL), Exemption status, and leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) (which provides up to 12 weeks of leave for employees unable to work because their child’s school is closed) are coming in.”
Nease speculates that the reason why so many are abandoning ship is a mix of health concern, but also notes that the school opening plans have created other problems due to the fact that state officials dumped the problem into the laps of local school districts “at the 11th hour.”
“The truth is most school employees are scared to death they will get sick (or worse), bring the virus home to loved ones, have a student in their care become ill, or experience the death of a coworker,” she says. “However, the even bigger reason for leave requests is the untenable position this state has put school employees in by creating homegrown reopening schedules that do not align. Many Vermont school employees work in districts different from those they live in. They have their own children in several grade levels in schools throughout the state.”
To read this important letter in its entirety click here.