Everyone wants schools to reopen.
Everyone agrees with the goals of the American Academy of Pediatrics which says students fare better with in-person instruction and classroom attendance.
Children want to be with their friends in the classroom learning and interacting.
Teachers and Principals want to serve the community and fully help children learn and succeed.
Parents want their children to go back to school so they can learn and grow. They also want them to go back so they, in some cases, can return to the workforce.
However, all of these education stakeholders want to do this safely, and not with a funding gun to their head as Donald Trump has monstrously chastised his own CDC guidelines, ridiculed the funding requirements necessary to reopen, and threatened to pressure Governors to reopen schools in the fall.
Pence, at the Coronavirus task force briefing today (July 8, 2020,) seemed to back off from Trump’s extremist stance when asked questions by reporters.
Unfortunately, and more importantly, so did CDC Head Dr. Robert Redfield who said the reopening guidelines were not meant to be “prescriptive” and indicated that they would be revising their guidelines.
After Trump’s comments at the event, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a statement which read:
“Educators, school staff, and families share the goal of reopening our schools and returning students to the classroom to ensure their physical, academic, social, and emotional needs are met. Like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, teachers know that the best place for our students to learn is in the classroom. However, today’s discussion at the White House Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools did not reflect the magnitude or severity of Arizona’s growing public health crisis.”
“For Arizona to reopen school facilities for in-person learning, we must first get COVID-19 under control. In the last two weeks, our confirmed cases doubled from 50,000 to 100,000. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up, and critical care services such as ventilators are at a record high use. The positivity rate in testing is between 25 percent to 30 percent – quadruple the 5 percent that experts recommend for making informed decisions about reopening. Today, Arizona has the highest infection rate per capita than any other state in the country – including New York during its April peak.”
“And while young students may be at lower risk for infection, the educators who make learning possible – including instructional aides, librarians, bus drivers, nutrition workers, and more – are at risk, as are students with medical conditions. Those valued members of our schools need more assurances that schools and communities have the resources they need to stop the virus from spreading widely through their communities. Given Arizona’s rising case numbers and the fact that Arizona remains open, I cannot provide those assurances for the adults and students who are medically vulnerable in our school communities at this time.”
“I welcome more aggressive action from Governor Ducey and our public health officials to help mitigate the virus’s spread. The reality of COVID-19 in Arizona means that reopening schools will be a community effort in which we all have a role to play. Stay home, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask when you are in public. It is only with statewide action and personal responsibility that we will find a pathway forward for our students and educators to return to the classroom.”
Others in Arizona have voiced their concerns with the Trump “approach” to reopening schools and responded to requests to comment to Blog for Arizona.
Coral Evans, the Mayor of Flagstaff, and a candidate for a State House seat in Legislative District Six relayed:
“Arizona is experiencing the worst outbreak in the world. We should open schools when science tells us it is safe to do so and not before. In the meantime, the legislature needs to find a way to go back to work and fully fund our schools so they can adapt as best possible to the current reality.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego commented:
“As a mom, I understand the eagerness for schools to safely reopen but we must ensure that educators and school administrators feel prepared and safe to do so. Schools are heroically adapting to the need to rethink the system of education delivery, from securing online accessibility for families who lack it, to adjusting how kids can safely interact with each other and their teachers throughout the day and still return home safely.”
Nathaniel Sigal, the spokesperson for Tucson Mayor Regina Romero responded to a request for comment and stated:
“The Mayor believes we should proceed with the highest level of caution and not make any rash or politically motivated decisions when it comes to re-opening, especially with our schools. She will continue to follow the direction and listen to the advice of our public health experts, superintendents, teachers, and parents with regard to when the appropriate time is to re-open schools.”
Arizona Democratic Party Chairperson Felecia Rotellini wrote:
“Trump has decided that seniors are expendable, our soldiers can have bounties placed on them without consequence, that slowing COVID testing down is more politically expedient, and now the safety of our children comes second to his campaign. We shouldn’t be surprised by Trump’s callousness anymore. Clearly, the long-term agenda is to cut all funding for public schools. Once again, Trump uses his incompetent blunders as a foundation for promoting Republicans’ dangerous plan to eliminate public education. The reality is Arizonans and Americans are fed up. They are ready to elect a leader with compassion and competence in November. They are ready for Joe Biden.”
Maricopa County School Superintendent Candidate Jeanne Casteen wrote:
“Never in my life did I think I would bear witness to a global pandemic that would shut down entire countries and overwhelm healthcare systems. Never did I think that businesses and government agencies would need to close out of concern for public safety. Never did I think that we would have a reality game show host as our president while all this happened. And never did I think some folks would choose partisan politics and conspiracy theories over American lives.”
“Yet…here we are. This is exactly what is happening, and Trump, after insisting back in February that COVID-19 was a “democratic hoax,” has continued to double-down on this kind of misinformation. Yesterday, this administration insisted that US schools would be open this fall for in-person learning, or lose federal funding. Trump AGAIN mentioned that someone named “they” think this is a political move that will help “them” politically. He and the Vice President did all this while stating how much they care for students and their families, and I found myself (again) yelling at my TV screen.”
“As a classroom teacher for the last twelve years, it’s pretty clear to me that our government cares very little about students and their families, and even less about teachers. As the number of cases spiked across the globe and people could see that we needed to close our schools to keep students and staff safe, public schools and educators scrambled to provide technology, meals, resources, and online instruction to families. They did this after over a decade of massive education budget cuts. They did this while for-profit schools sent their students to public schools to take advantage of these provisions while applying for both CARES Act funding AND PPP loans.”
“This administration has made it clear that they care very little for our public education system, and dismantling it has been one of their objectives from the get go. Now is the time for teachers and districts to stand up to this science-denying administration and do what’s right for kids, educators, and families.”
Arizona Legislative District 22 State House Candidate Kathleen Honne said:
“I cannot imagine the childhood Donald Trump had to continually believe the “stick” is the only approach to problem-solving, especially when it comes to children. In 2017, 2018, 2019 and again in March of 2020 his administration proposed drastic slashes to education funding, the most recent totaling $7.1 Billion, according to The Atlantic. Currently, Arizona cases of COVID-19 continue to rise at a daily rate higher than anywhere else in the country per capita; educators and lawmakers are work collaboratively, in bipartisan efforts, to find common-sense solutions to safely deliver instruction with the limited resources available; my only response to our president is, “Thank God we have Congress, the Constitution, courts and state governments between you and the majority of our student funding”! Arizona parents and students should know that school boards and educators will do their very best to provide a fulfilling year, even though it will look and feel different. Allow them a bit of grace, as they truly have kids’ best interest at heart.”
Suzanne Hug, a candidate for a State House seat in Legislative District 25 wrote:
“Arizona school districts are working hard to have distance learning ready to go in the fall. We all want schools to open, but safety is key. Ignoring public health is reckless. Just as pushing to open business too soon had lead to more problems and the lots of many Arizona lives, schools need to be handled thoughtfully. A blanket Nationwide statement is grandstanding at it’s worse. We deserve better and I am looking forward to change in November.”
Tempe Union High School Governing Board Candidate Sarah James offered her perspective, writing:
“When we first shut down, we had a goal of meeting “Gating Criteria” of a decline in cases for 14 straight days to get to Phase One of reopening. We never met it but opened up to Phase One anyway in May. About two weeks after opening, our cases started growing exponentially and have not stopped. Reopening schools is in Phase Two, which happens once we meet the Gating Criteria again while in Phase One. We are nowhere near that goal, as our cases are still growing in Arizona. Trump’s call to reopen does not take into consideration the severity of COVID in Arizona, and to open up would be dangerous on many levels. The health and safety of our educators, students, and healthcare workers must be the priority, and our hospitals must not continue to be overburdened. We will get through this by working together to keep our community safe.”
Creighton School Board Candidate Sophia Ramirez commented:
“As a School Board Candidate, I am committed to the safety of our children, staff, teachers, and community. As a mother, I see how my children miss their teachers and friends, but I am unwilling to risk anyone’s health. Trump’s recent comment on withholding funding if schools do not return to in-person is dangerous. Donald Trump is putting at risk the lives of our children and communities. School Board Members’ priority is for children and their staff to learn and teach in safe, healthy environments. Mr. Trump is a threat to the safe and healthy environments I seek as a parent. More than ever, we must stand in unity and do what is most harmless for our children. On line, learning is the safest route we can take at the moment.”
Instructor and Tucson Unified Governing Board Candidate Adam Ragan stated:
David Lujan, the head of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress wrote:
“It’s a ridiculous threat. Opening our public schools safely is critical to getting our economy going again. But when schools reopen should not be rushed because the President is worried about his re-election. It should be based on input from health officials, teachers, principals, and parents to determine when it is safe for students and school staff.”
Everyone wants schools to reopen.
Schools that can reopen in a safe manner with adequate safety measures to meet the needs of the local community should proceed.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case for all schools across the country or within states or even in local municipalities.
All children, teachers, principals, and staff need to be in a safe and healthy environment. While children, thank God, are not as susceptible (so far?) to the virus, their teachers, principals, counselors, administrative assistants, nurses, and custodians are. So are their parents and grandparents when they go home.
Also, as school districts reopen, all public servants, including Mr. Trump, need to realize that this can not be done on the cheap. Proper procedures and funding social distancing and testing at schools need to be in place and maintained through the duration of this pandemic. This is going to cost money.
School districts in Arizona and across the country should have the latitude to offer in-person, hybrid, staggered, and all virtual attendance and learning options for children and their families.
Even the study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (which the current Administration cherry picks passages from,) acknowledges this on the first pages of their June 25 report when it states:
“Any school re-entry policies should consider the following key principles:”
“School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working.”
“It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban, and rural districts.”
“Policies should be practical, feasible, and appropriate for child and adolescent’s developmental stage.”
“Special considerations and accommodations to account for the diversity of youth should be made, especially for our vulnerable populations, including those who are medically fragile, live in poverty, have developmental challenges, or have special health care needs or disabilities, with the goal of safe return to school.
No child or adolescents should be excluded from school unless required in order to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs. Pediatricians, families, and schools should partner together to collaboratively identify and develop accommodations when needed.”
“School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities. These policies should be consistently communicated in languages other than English, if needed, based on the languages spoken in the community, to avoid marginalization of parents/guardians who are of limited English proficiency or do not speak English at all.”
Do not cower to Donald Trump, Governor Ducey, and put children, their families, and other education stakeholder’s health and lives at risk.
Republicans should stand up to Trump if the conditions on the ground merit delays in reopening or students attending virtual classes and say “We will not risk our children, grandchildren, and educators so you can save your political ass.”
They should not want to risk student, teachers, principals, or staff members’ health if schools, like beaches and bars before them, were prematurely reopened.