It is now 2022. Most people probably didn’t think we would still be dealing with Covid-19, at least not to the same degree. In fact, you can make an argument that it is the worst it’s ever been. But even though the pandemic has not really gotten that much better, our response has definitely shifted.
In 2020, schools were closing when one or two kids tested positive. Now, some schools aren’t even quarantining the classroom a positive testing student was in. This shift in protocol isn’t lost on teachers.
Many teachers still feel like they are in the crossfire. In this latest post-holiday wave, teaching 100 plus kids a day, many of whom don’t properly wear masks, is too much to ask according to some. Afterall, it’s not just about getting sick. The workload has increased during the pandemic due to the lack of subs and the balancing of in-person and remote work planning.
So now, teachers are pushing back. All over the country teachers are going head-to-head with their district about the conditions of in-person learning, and many are debating whether they should be in-person at all.
Chicago students just returned to class Wednesday, after a couple of days of remote learning. Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to refuse to work in person. The agreement between the union and the district includes defined metrics and thresholds for closing schools.
Even in cities without strong unions, teachers are demanding more safeguards for Covid-19. That includes everything from cleaning materials to a return to remote learning. The latter of which has become politically untenable in certain places.
No matter how much politicians and districts don’t want to cancel school, there is only so much a school can do when a critical number of teachers are out for a week or two and you cannot find subs. That is the case in several districts. Recently schools in Indianapolis and the Twin Cities have been forced to close their doors. So, if schools don’t meet teachers at least halfway with some of the safety precautions they are asking for, they might end up returning to remote learning anyway.
The situation is in many cases even worse than it looks on paper because as rampant as Covid-19 is among faculty, it is not the only cause of staff shortages. There are still all the other sicknesses that accompany winter. Teacher burnout and resignations are at an all-time high. Then of course some teachers have their own children who may get the coronavirus or their children go to a daycare that shut down which forces them to stay at home, too.
Teachers always have complaints and asks of their schools and districts. They don’t always listen. However, many are finding that as the talent pool gets thinner and thinner, they have more and more leverage. Nowhere is this more true than in the places hit hard by the pandemic.