July 27, 2021

School reopening plans are now part of COVID-19 politics. Teachers fear for their safety.

Coronavirus cases are soaring across the country and some states are pausing the reopening of their economies. Still, pressure is mounting to reopen schools full-time this fall — and it’s coming from state politicians, the White House, pediatricians and parents.

Teachers are caught in the middle.

While many desperately want to return to their classrooms, they’re worried about putting themselves or their families at risk of getting sick. Nobody knows how likely that will be once adults begin working in close quarters in school buildings again.

This week, that dilemma was thrust to the forefront. Before a lengthy White House discussion Tuesday on reopening America’s schools, Florida’s education commissioner on Monday ordered all districts to offer parents the opportunity to send their students back to school five days a week.

Teachers’ unions concerned about the health and safety of students and staff have balked at that order, with one Florida union official calling it “catastrophic.” The state continues to set records for daily new infections.

Districts, meanwhile, face another alarming prospect: If millions of students elect to return to class while millions of teachers don’t, it could create a staffing shortage unlike anything seen in modern times.

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