Eric Galatas/Colorado News Connection
As school districts scramble to reopen in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, educators in Colorado and across the nation say they’ll need more financial support from the federal government to open safely. Educators say school districts will need more teachers, substitutes and custodians, more buses for social distancing, and personal protection equipment.
Denver-area high school teacher Emily Muellenberg says teachers are eager to see their students again, but many also are terrified. “We don’t know if we’re going to have to purchase our own hand sanitizer,” she states. “What are kids going to be responsible for?” “Does that mean that I should also go buy my own box of disposable masks just in case one of my students shows up without one?”
Holding back on reopening schools
New guidelines released by the American Federation of Teachers call for holding back on reopening schools in districts until the number of new COVID-19 cases drops for at least two consecutive weeks. The union also is calling for ramping up the capacity to test, trace and isolate each new case.
President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding unless schools reopen, and points to Germany, Denmark and other countries where schools have reopened without problems. Muellenberg notes that, unlike in the U.S., people in countries where schools have reopened are following all health expert recommendations.
All students wear masks, and there’s enough funding for additional staff, protective gear and making sure classrooms are thoroughly cleaned. “Because they were able to get a handle on this virus so much earlier, not only did they send their kids back to school, but Denmark had, like, 11 new cases this week,” Muellenberg points out. “Well, we have 11 new cases on my block.”
$2 million per school district
It’s projected to cost nearly $2 million for the average-size school district to reopen all of its school buildings under the new safety guidelines, according to analysis by leading education associations. Muellenberg says she hopes Congress will step up with the same kind of support given to banks and big corporations during the economic downturn, because she says the economy will take a lot longer to recover if parents have to stay home with their children.
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