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My Turn, Scott Maddox: Nobody wants to get an eye put out

By Scott Maddox

For weeks, people have been discussing the reopening of schools in August. There is no doubt children need to be in the classroom to receive the best education possible.

Actually sitting in a classroom cannot be replaced by distance learning. The social aspect of physically being in school along with extracurricular activities like sports are instrumental to a well-rounded child. With that being said, there is much more to returning to school than that.

Saying they need to be there is easy if you don’t have to be there. Classroom teachers have had very little, if any, say so in deciding if and when students should return to the classroom. It would seem prudent to get the input of the people in the trenches. For instance what happens when a teacher gets sick with COVID-19? There is little to no chance a substitute is going to take over a classroom that was occupied by a COVID-positive teacher. Who teaches the students then? What happens if other teachers get sick with COVID at the same time? There aren’t enough substitutes as it is.

Will parents of students at the school panic and start pulling students out or will teachers call in sick out of fear? And what if the worst case scenario occurs and a teacher or student dies from COVID? Who bears that burden?

Another possibility is that a percentage of teachers simply refuse to go back to a classroom setting. Let’s say 30% don’t go back; what happens then? Fire them? That doesn’t solve the problem of not having a teacher for the classroom. And my gut tells me lawsuits will follow if teachers are fired for not going to work. Those lawsuits will most likely be decided in the teacher’s favor. With the current restrictions placed on society, there is no way a court upholds a teacher being fired for refusing to endanger themselves.

If you have children, then you’ve had or have an elementary school-age child. Can someone offer some advice on how to deal with a room of 25 7-year-old students — all from different backgrounds and discipline regiments. Does anyone really believe an adequate amount of teaching will get done between the many attempts to get students to put their mask on, keep their hands to themselves and stop coughing on others? That’s not to mention sharing pencils and other instruments that the children have had in their mouths.

It’s an extremely difficult situation to render a decision on. Do I think the whole COVID thing is being manipulated by the media and for political purposes? Most likely. Are the percentages of serious illness very low? The numbers bear that out, but there is an old saying that goes something like, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets an eye put out.”

Nobody wants to be the one whose eye gets put out.

We should all value the opinions of the teachers who face the daily challenges whether we think schools should return to classroom instruction in August or not. So let’s give the teachers enough respect to get their input and live with delaying school if that’s how the majority feel.

Scott Maddox lives in Salisbury and is a retired educator.

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