As teachers in Charleston County Schools, we see a virtual restart as an opportunity for CCSD to lead the charge in innovative virtual instruction in South Carolina for the safety of all staff and students, beginning August 18. Of course teachers want to return to the physical building..but only as soon as it is safely possible.
Charleston has yet to see a sustained downward trend in COVID infection. DHEC metrics -- published since June -- stipulate a percent positive rate of <5% for a full face-to-face reopening. According to most recent data from July 20, Charleston is at a 24.6% positive rate -- almost 5x the recommended maximum for a full face-to-face reopening. We do not need new metrics to qualify what we already know -- it is unsafe to return to the classroom.
In addition, the proposed September 8 start date for schools occurs after tourists will descend upon Charleston for Labor Day weekend and when locals will engage in their last "hurrah" before school resumes. We will end up in a situation where virtual learning is the only option, yet we will be woefully unprepared. The suggested September 8 start date is not about being prepared: it is about prolonging the inevitable in the hope that we will have miraculously overcome a global pandemic.
While CCSD has championed its ability to allow parents to choose what is best for their children, CCSD employees are not afforded the same choice. Their feeble gesture is to allow CCSD employees’ children to attend school five days/week. This is not a privilege; rather, it is a ploy to reinforce the point that employees do not have a choice.
Students miss the camaraderie from interacting with friends and teachers and the boost to their self-esteem that comes from learning a new skill or way of thinking. Parents miss the unbridled passion of children coming home from school, eager to share the wonders of the world that they were exposed to that day. Teachers miss the moment the bell rings, when they can close their doors to build relationships and create learning experiences in the magical ways that only they know how to do.
However, sending them back into an unsafe environment will not restore that sense of normalcy.
The validation that comes from spending time with friends and participating in bustling classrooms will be hampered by desk barriers, face masks, and 6-foot distancing protocols, all counterintuitive to the inherently social nature of learning. Just as adults have created a “masker v. anti-masker” divide, so will students separate into factions where those who follow protocol are tormented and those who don’t are subject to disciplinary consequences that will force them out of the classroom.
The joyful moment of a teacher closing the door to begin a lesson will initiate a 90-minute obstacle course of how to avoid (or spread) COVID. How will teachers manage classrooms when proximity and facial cues are the most commonly used, least disruptive ways to ensure proper behavior? What is the protocol for when a teacher will inevitably need to continue teaching the standards as her students and colleagues fall ill and die?
Is this truly the nightmare where we wish to send our beloved students and teachers? How can we justify teaching science? History? When sending them into the classroom blatantly ignores the values these subjects offer?
If we knowingly put the life of one child or staff member in jeopardy, we are making the wrong decision.
1,678 CCSD teachers who wish to live and continue teaching