Teachers union president dares Trump to breathe the air in a classroom full of kids
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)


Garcia indicated that she doubted Trump would be willing to do what he's asking teachers to do. "I double dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breath that air without any preparation for how we're going to bring our kids back safely," she told CNN's New Day.

Indeed, safety is the watchword of the day. Most people want to be able to send their kids back to school, but they also want to not feel terrified to do so.

There are also myriad questions that have been raised about schools reopening, which no one seems to have good answers for:

- What if a student tests positive? Do all the other students and their teachers have to then isolate for 14 days?

- If a teacher has to stay home for 14 days, do they have to use sick days for that?

- What if a teacher tests positive? Do all of their students have to isolate? If not, who will teach the class, knowing that the students have been exposed?

- What about teachers in middle schools or high schools who teach 150 different kids throughout the day. Do all of those kids have to quarantine if they find out the teacher's positive and they've been exposed?

- What about teachers who are married to other teachers? If one has to quarantine, won't the other one as well, thereby removing two teachers from the system?

The logistics of setting up a classroom and/or online learning to accommodate public health guidelines is trick enough. But the questions about what happens if someone actually gets the virus in an in-person school situation is enough to make your head spin.

It's hard. We can't just toss up our hands and say, "Welp, no school for the foreseeable future," but we also can't toss up our hands and say, "Pandemic? Oh well, back to normal!" There simply aren't any good answers, which is immensely frustrating on all fronts.

Actually, there is a good answer, but we'd have to go back in time and have entirely different leadership at the beginning of the pandemic in order to get to it. And unfortunately, we're stuck where we are, with rising cases, a willy-nilly approach to slowing it down, and no solid plan for safely sending kids and teachers back to school. Let's at least make sure we're being as smart as possible and listening to health experts as we try to navigate our way through this totally uncertain season.


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