The Oregon Employment Department struggled to process furloughed educators' claims, delaying payments for well over a month and providing no assurances on when the money would finally arrive. Oregonian file photo

After initially cancelling in-person classes nationwide in March, families have been scrambling to find a balance for childcare and work—many of them forgoing their jobs to teach children. As coronavirus cases and deaths plateau worldwide, it seems that Americans think the pandemic is ending in their country as the school year is beginning, yet this couldn’t be more wrong. America seems to be the only country who hasn’t been able to get a grip on this deadly virus, unlike almost every other country in the world.

I’ve grown up in close proximity to the education system. As the daughter of a preschool teacher, I’ve seen how hard educators work—even at the Pre-K level. Hours of planning and often their own money go into their classrooms. All of the hard work they do is for the kids and the kids only. Which makes the predicament America is facing even more disturbing.

My dear friend’s mother is a teacher, and was sent an email from her district ‘strongly suggesting’ the creation of a will and updated life insurance before returning this year. The teachers were also given the option of quitting and retiring after virtual instruction was determined to be “unnecessary.” Another major reason teacher safety is not supported and advocated for is our commander-in-chief.

“So what we want to do is we want to get our schools open. We want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall. And the—as you know, this is a disease that’s a horrible disease, but young people do extraordinarily well,” President Trump said in a press conference recently.

There are so many factors to consider when reopening schools that Trump has simply ignored in his press conference—community spread, for one. What if a child contracts the disease and recovers, but passes it on to his or her teacher, elderly relatives or parents? Does the school shut down after each positive case, considering it can spread so quickly in the community to those who are high risk? These are just some of the factors that worry me, especially when having a family member in the education system.

I don’t want to live in a country where the lives of our educators are placed below the need to “return back to normal” during a global pandemic. I’ve been following the articles and news coverage on return to schools and it seems the only priority is normalcy for these children. Normalcy is not intended to be placed above the sanctity of human life.

On the national stage, the way America is going about reopening schools is, quite frankly, a complete and utter embarrassment—much like our handling of COVID-19. France, Austria and countless other countries are completely reopening schools this fall. The staggering difference in how these countries handled the initial outbreak of COVID-19 is clear: they wore masks and took it seriously, and are planning the in person return to school carefully (not to mention, giving schools the funding they need—but that’s another discussion).

America is in no position to open schools until either a vaccination is created or the majority of citizens wear masks to protect themselves and their communities. Selfishness will only cause our country more preventable deaths–like those of teachers who are being forced back into the classroom.

Until the families of educators can feel completely safe about their family members returning to the classroom, the discussion of reopening public schools should not be entertained, and should not be forced upon educators by the public figure who is supposed to be their biggest advocate—President Trump.

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