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Tuesday July 05, 2022

A safe return?

August 22, 2020

We’re living in a nation struggling to come to terms with the deadly repercussions of a social safety net gutted even before the virus reached our shores and decisions guided by the most self-interested kind of politics rather than the public good.

For teachers like me, with the privilege of not having to work a second or third job, summer can be a time to reflect on the previous school year and prepare for the next. I take classes, read, develop new curriculum, and spend time with family and friends. Summer has been a time to catch up with all the pieces of my life I’ve neglected during the school year and recharge my physical and emotional batteries. Like many other public school teachers I know, I step away in order to step back in.

Not this summer, though. In these months, there’s been no reprieve. In Portland, Oregon, where I live, the confluence of the historic Black Lives Matter uprising, a subsequent invasion by the president’s federal agents, the hovering menace and tragic devastation of the coronavirus, and rising rates of homelessness and joblessness have contributed to a seismic disruption of the routines and structures of our community. A feeling of uncertainty and anxiety now permeates every facet of daily life. Like so many, I’ve been parenting full time without relief since March, acutely aware of the absence of the usual indispensable web of teachers, caregivers, coaches, camp counselors, family, and friends who have helped me raise my child so that I can help raise the children of others.

The dislocation from my community and the isolation caused by the breakdown of normal social ties, as well as my daughter’s and my lack of access to school, has had a profound effect on our lives. And yet, knowing all that, feeling it all so deeply, I would still never advocate sending our children back to school in person as Covid-19 still rages out of control.

Without a concerted effort to stop the spread of the virus – as cases in this country soar past five million and deaths top 170,000 – including masking mandates, widespread testing, effective contact tracing, enough funding to change the physical layout of classrooms and school buildings, a radical reduction in class sizes, and proper personal protective equipment for all school employees, returning to school becomes folly on a grand scale. Of course, an effort like that would require a kind of social cohesion, innovation, and focused allocation of resources that, by definition, is nonexistent in the age of Trump.

Excerpted from: The ‘Great’ Reopening

Commondreams.org

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