Opening Despite Opposition
In some districts, teachers’ unions do not have to sign off on a back-to-school plan, and district leaders can proceed with reopening schools regardless of labor opposition.
For example, the Baltimore Teachers Union has opposed a return to in-person instruction until school buildings are deemed completely safe. Yet Baltimore city schools resumed in-person instruction for small groups of at-risk students in about 25 schools last month, although the district temporarily went back to full remote instruction after Thanksgiving until Dec. 7 over fears of a post-holiday outbreak.
“BTU is not simply opposing what the district wants to do for the sake of opposition; we have legitimate health concerns,” the union said on its website
. “The district has refused to bargain with the BTU over the most substantive issues of when and how schools will reopen, and the system is hastily shifting groups of students and staff to in-person instruction without taking the necessary precautions.”
The Utah Education Association, meanwhile, asked the governor to require all secondary schools in areas of high COVID-19 transmission to go remote through winter break or until cases significantly decline. However, UEA President Heidi Matthews acknowledged in a statement that the feelings of members on whether to shut down schools “run the gamut.”
A survey of UEA members found that 42 percent said all school buildings across the state should temporarily close, while another 42 percent said those decisions should be made on a local level, KSL TV reported
. Only 16 percent of teachers across the state supported a statewide job action, such as a sickout.
Late last month, Cheryl Bost, the president of the Maryland State Education Association, wrote a letter
to State Superintendent Karen Salmon, asking her to close schools through at least mid-January to “get through the holiday season with clarity and consistency,” and then reevaluate based on health metrics and whether safety measures are in place.
“We’re basing that on what we’re hearing from our educators,” Bost said. “When we see the cases on the rise, [and] we don’t see an investment in health and safety protocols that are needed, educators don’t feel like they’re being heard.”
There’s been some backlash, she said, but these are necessary measures to make educators feel more confident and to keep schools open long-term.
“Many of our educators say, ‘We were treated as heroes in the spring, and then we were demonized in the fall,’” Bost said. “I think people forget that our educators have their families, too, and they are trying—it is very stressful. They’re trying to make it work, they really, really are.”