The Miami-Dade School Board unanimously approved a reopening of schools plan Wednesday night, which gives students and parents several options, ranging from distance learning at home to coming back to school full time.
How do teachers feel about going back to the classroom and facing students during a pandemic?
Andrew Kearns wants to go back to Jose Marti MAST Academy, but it’s not an easy decision for the math teacher. Kearns is undergoing chemotherapy, which leaves him immunocompromised.
“I need to stay safe, my students need to stay safe, and I need to be able to instruct them in an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning,” Kearns said. “I certainly want to be with my students and teach them face-to-face, the concerns are the risk factors.”
Molly Winters-Diallo is a former Miami-Dade County teacher of the year and a parent herself. She told us she wants to get back in the classroom at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High ideally, and she wants her eight-year-old daughter back in school, but only if school is as safe as possible.
“I’m apprehensive because of the social distancing. Schools are not made for social distancing, and they never have been, so now that we have this new challenge, I think of all the ways that can create complications,” Winters-Diallo said. “There’s not anything I want more than to go back to school.”
She points out that teaching is not just lecturing. The preferred model of instruction, Winters-Diallo says, is collaborative, which is incompatible with physical distancing.
“As a science teacher, I’m a little bit hesitant about having small groups of lab partners so I’m gonna have to keep them distanced,” said veteran science teacher David Buncher.
Buncher approves of the school district’s reopening plan, which emphasizes the safety of teachers as well as students by using plexiglas dividers, extensive sanitizing, social distancing, and requiring everyone to wear masks.
If school started tomorrow, Buncher said he would be in his classroom at the new iPrep Academy North.
“Yes, I would go back to the classroom as long as certain things are met, and I’m comfortable with the level of cleaning that’s going on in the classrooms and the school and checking the students as they come in,” Buncher said.
The teacher’s union, so far, supports the direction of the school district.
“At this particular point, I think our district has done a tremendous job in that regard,” said United Teachers of Dade vice president Antonio White.
White says the district has to follow through on its safety promises, and teachers cannot be forced into uncomfortable situations.
“Our goal is to always make it safe and secure both physically and mentally for our workforce,” White said, adding that the pandemic’s progress makes everything uncertain.
“Our numbers are rising every day, we don’t really have a clue what’s going to happen in 30 or 60 days and that’s just the reality of it, teachers don’t want to hear that , they want definitive answers but truthfully there are no definitive answers at this point,” said White.
All of these educators have the same goal, to teach the students well, preferably in person, if that’s feasible and if it’s the sensible thing to do.