Schools are opening up and I have yet to see a good plan for how we should go about educating our kids. I don’t think virtual learning worked at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers were forced into new roles by teaching online. In many cases, they were not trained. I applaud my children’s teachers for the effort they gave and am thankful. I do not envy their position. I appreciate their effort, but at the same time, uncomfortable with how most schools are reopening.
When I was President of the PTA, I had deep conversations with teachers and staff about difficulties within their jobs. When I was the treasurer, I had access to school budgets. Teachers are stressed and budgets are stretched. The 2020-2021 school year will be their hardest yet. This is why I wanted to share my opinion on how to open up schools.
First, public schools need an enormous bank sized bailout. When the US bailed out banks and corporations, it was looked at as in investment and means to keep the economy going. We should give our children as much if not more consideration. Every public school in the country should receive funds to cover training, social distancing, new hires, and supplies.
Second, we need to establish that kids cannot go back to school full time nor will distance learning work. Taking a gap year sounds great for all ages, but that will not happen. I believe they should separate classes into morning and afternoon sessions. This way, social distancing will be easier. Students will do the bulk of their schoolwork outside of class. Class time is for teaching and socializing (safely). Classrooms are cleaned and disinfected during the break between morning and afternoon classes.
Third, the government awards a teacher a beginning of the year bonus. Teachers have always had it hard, but now they are outside of their comfort zones and working longer hours and must come up with alternative ways of teaching. This one-time bonus would show our appreciation for the work they do, plus if we split classes, teachers will probably add an extra hour of work.
Fourth, working parents can’t take a half-day off. Local agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club and YMCAs be given funds to take in kids and tutor children who have parents that cannot work from home.
Fifth, new hires for custodians, substitute teachers, office workers, nurses, and assistants to parent/teacher coordinators. New hires must recognize they are not permanent employees and can lose their jobs anytime and are not a part of the teacher’s unions.
Sixth, a health check occurs every day. Substitute teachers will show up every day and assist teachers and nurses to check students for COVID symptoms. After checks are complete, the substitutes will be told to go home or fill in for teachers with symptoms or teachers who called off.
Eighth, parents have the choice to educate at home. For grade school students, one teacher for each class will cover a subject. For instance, if you have 5 second grade classes, one teacher will teach math, another language arts, another science, and so on. Parents will also have the choice to teach their kids the curriculum covered in the schools and become a homeschool parent, but still be part of the public school system.
Ninth, social distancing and masks worn at all times. If a student does not comply, they can’t attend school. It’s harsh, but that’s the way it must be.
Tenth, a parenting representative from each class will be chosen. The parenting rep will receive questions and concerns from other parents in the class and share them with the teacher during a virtual meeting once a week. The parenting rep will share responses with the rest of the parents.
Frankly, times suck right now. To get through these difficult moments, we will need to work together, step out of our comfort zones to lead, work hard, and be patient. We need to offer an extensive amount of grace to school employees, parents, and to the students. To get through the school year, the government, schools, parents, and students need to work together. Of course, without bailout money, none of my suggestions can happen.
I’m just shooting off suggestions and brainstorming. I would love to know what other parents and teachers think. How would you go about opening up schools?