Several schools that have reopened for the 2020-2021 school year have already had to shut down or quarantine students and teachers because of the spread of COVID-19. It's become clear that kids are able to spread the virus and get sick. Teachers have begun drafting their wills in case they die when they are forced back to work.
And behind all of this is a federal government that refuses to give schools the support they would need to make schooling safe for everyone this year. Resources for schools and teachers have always been tight, but it's getting to the ridiculous point where schools have hold fundraisers for masks and other protective equipment to help keep their students and teachers alive.
In a viral tweet, Keith Hernandez writes that his daughter's public school is fundraising to buy masks, face shields, and desk dividers. "What the f--k are we doing?" Keith asks incredulously.
We've all been dealing with the pandemic for months. It's easy to get complacent about how terrible things are, but if you think about what we are asking students and teachers to do, if you really recognize how poorly the U.S. has handled this crisis compared to every other country on the planet, it's absurd.
The government spends billions of dollars arming police officers with military-grade equipment. Meanwhile, schools cannot afford to buy enough masks to keep themselves protected. Teachers have taken to sharing the cleaning kits they've been given for the entire year, and it's appalling.
This teacher was given one face shield, one bottle of hand sanitizer, and a small pack of wipes. Anyone who thinks that will be enough to curb the spread of this deadly virus when hundreds of people are gathered together in one building five days a week has not been paying attention.
Meanwhile, some other teachers are starting GoFundMe pages to raise money to buy masks because some school districts have opted not to provide them with any protective equipment at all. The messaging with regard to how to protect ourselves from the virus has been so muddled and so politicized that some towns and districts are actively putting their staff and students in harm's way.
In fact, in one West Texas school district, teachers were told that they could not make homemade PPE and dividers for their classrooms. In a letter, one such teacher wrote, "Recently, many educators across the country have used their own money to create see-through dividers, curtains, and other PPE for their classrooms to combat the coronavirus.
"I myself have purchased clear shower curtains for around my desk and to split student tables to create sneeze guards and barriers. It has come to my attention that apparently this is not allowed in our district? ... It seems an outrage to me that teachers who are going to such great lengths to protect themselves, their families, and their students are being denied the ability to create a safer environment."
Teachers didn't sign up to die. They are chronically underpaid and under-appreciated, yet we have expected them to agree to sacrifice their lives to give lessons, whether it be at the hands of school shooters or a deadly virus. The teachers in this country deserve so much more.
One Twitter user summed up the issue behind the unreasonable, unworkable policies schools around the nation are adopting as they reopen this fall: "We are doing what we always do. Not funding healthcare and education and prioritizing police and military-grade weaponry, destruction of life instead of health. Just another day in America."