By ABBY GILLAN, Hays NEA
I’ve been asked many times by friends, family, and members of the community what it is like being back at school with students in the midst of a pandemic.
It is difficult to speak on behalf of all teachers because each building, classroom, teacher has a unique set of circumstances.
That is what poses such a challenge for our District in providing plans and procedures that meet the needs of everyone.
At the end of the day, we have to protect our most vulnerable populations of students and staff so that we can continue to deliver instruction on-site in our classrooms.
It is our position that the District has made every effort to make decisions based on the most reliable information they have at a given time and the needs of our community.
This summer Hays-NEA negotiated several items into a Memorandum of Understanding to include safety precautions in a formal agreement with the District.
Some of those precautions include the wearing of proper masks by all who enter our school buildings, provision of sanitizing and disinfecting productions, and guidance on leave if teachers contract COVID-19 or have to quarantine. This alleviated some of the fear and apprehension some felt heading into the school year.
Our teacher population certainly includes those considered at high risk for experiencing complications if they contract COVID-19.
Teachers worry about getting sick and spreading the virus to family members who are at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19.
Our greatest challenge in our buildings is dealing with the new demands of an already demanding job while providing as much normalcy for our students as possible.
Teachers and support staff are instructing and students are learning in new ways.
While we are back in the classroom with students, we are also managing online students simultaneously. Teaching and learning online is not and should not be approached as if it is face-to-face.
Research-based best practices tell us that is ineffective and teachers are sensitive to that.
The work load of teachers and staff has doubled in order to accommodate the competing demands of our new school day.
The strategies and pedagogical practices teachers have spent years learning and perfecting have had to shift overnight.
Finally, we are concerned for our students' and their families' well-being. These are challenging times to navigate and our schools have an important role to play in supporting our students and their families.
Teachers are glad to be back with students despite the challenges, changes, risks, and uncertainty inherent in our current situation.
Even during a pandemic, there is no other place a teacher wants to be than in the classroom with their students. We ask that everyone in our community commit to taking basic precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus and ultimately keep our children in school.
— Abby Gillan, Hays NEA