“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” ― Barak Obama
Dear Moore Public Schools Administrators and Board Members,
I teach English at Central Junior High School, where I display quotes such as the one above in my physical classroom and post them in my virtual learning environments. I encourage my students to use their voices and believe they can make a difference. I promote respect as our guiding principle, and I tell my students I will never ask them to do anything I have not done myself or would not be willing to do. If I am to continue these practices with my head held high, I must honor these ideals by voicing my concerns as respectfully as possible regarding our return to traditional learning in the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cases already have begun to spike as the result of schools reopening in states such as Indiana, Georgia, and Kansas (Shapiro, et al.), as well as Tennessee (Mangram) and more. The virus has arrived at our largest high school among custodians before we have even opened our doors. More and more school districts are deciding to delay the start of school, to begin the school year remotely, and/or to develop hybrid approaches and rotation schedules to decrease exposure (Shapiro, et al.). While the Moore Public Schools Return to Learn plan allows students and their families who are at increased risk due to underlying health conditions the option of remote learning, no such provisions exist for our district’s faculty and staff members who are at risk or have immediate family members at risk to continue being of service and maintain a viable income.
Undoubtedly, students need to be in school when schools can ensure a safe environment. We are far better equipped to meet students’ needs academically, emotionally, socially, and physically in a traditional classroom setting. But at what cost?
I want to be a team player. I want to do my part. I want to make a difference. But, I also want to preserve as many human lives as possible, and this is a life-and-death situation that is highly likely to result in negative consequences (Bendix) for students, faculty and staff members, the families of both, and, ultimately, the community at large.
This year, the notion that teachers work in the trenches seems truer than ever before. We are at far greater risk than administrators who continue to conduct meetings virtually and command their troops, so to speak, from behind the brick walls and plexiglass encasements of the Administrative Services Center.
Sound decisions are not made in fear, and I respect the fact that our district seems to embrace this truth. I write to you not in fear, but with valid concerns regarding the grave reality of the situation. I do not envy the task of the decisions you face, nor do I claim to have all of the answers. That said, as an educator and a parent, I implore you to reconsider our Return to Learn plan, ever mindful of the more than 26,500 human lives you hold in your hands.
Bendix, Aria. “Mounting research paints a bleak picture for schools trying to reopen. Most large schools can expect coronavirus cases within 1 week.” Business Insider, 4 Aug. 2020, www.businessinsider.com/should-schools-reopen-coronavirus-spread-us-2020-7.
Mangrum, Meghan. “These Tennessee school districts are already reporting COVID-19 cases after reopening.” Tennessean, 7 Aug. 2020, www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2020/08/05/tennessee-school-districts-reported-coronavirus-cases/3296529001/.
Shapiro, Eliza, et al. “A School Reopens, and the Coronavirus Creeps In.” The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/08/01/us/schools-reopening-indiana-coronavirus.html.