by TyLisa C. Johnson
Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Keri Cox feels uneasy about the return to school this fall. Her anxiety and questions are piling up, with little to no clear answers. What will happen if she needs to self-quarantine? Will her second-grade students keep their masks on, especially during sweltering heat? Will they understand her speaking through her mask from the front of the classroom?
Without guidance on dozens of urgent concerns by Cox and fellow teachers, she just doesn’t see how she can return to her classroom at Liberty Elementary in Shadyside. Cox, 39, is also a mother to three — a 3-year-old, 2-year-old and 10-month-old — who she fears she’ll leave vulnerable by physically returning to school.
“It just seems like there is right now no reasonable solution and no really easy answers to these questions that we’ve all been asking,” Cox said.
Teachers who spoke with PublicSource described apprehension to return to their classrooms, despite a deep desire to get back to their students. They worried about safety logistics, their health and their students’ health. Most of all, many worried they wouldn’t be the kind of teacher their most vulnerable students need.
Cox is one of thousands of teachers across Allegheny County and millions nationwide, with countless questions and anxieties about returning to school this fall for in-person instruction. In some cities, teachers have written wills and taken out extra life insurance in anticipation of the return to school. California’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, announced on July 13 they will be online only in the fall. In the release, the districts said they continue to plan for a return to in-person learning, “as soon as public health conditions allow.”
As part of the Refuse to Return social movement, #14daysNoNewCases, more than 80,000 educators, students, administrators and other concerned community members nationwide have signed a petition that says they refuse to return to campuses this fall until counties report no new coronavirus cases for at least 14 consecutive days.
Amy Galloway-Barr is a 10th-grade English teacher at Allderdice High School. As her 17th year in the classroom approaches, her list of concerns grows by the day amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)
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