WEAC: Time to Double Down on Safety
By Ron Martin
Eighth Grade Teacher
One month into the school year, the pandemic continues to surge at devastating levels in every corner of our state, prompting Wisconsin Public School educators to double down on our call that local districts place the safety of students and staff as their first priority.
Since last spring we have not wavered from our demands – local districts should hold in-person classes only when their communities meet benchmarks set by health experts and put an end to unrealistic demands for educators.
As we’ve waited for leaders to lead, students and families continued the start-again, stop-again cycle of learning. Wisconsin is failing to provide what children need most – stability. As our state makes headlines for skyrocketing new case and infection rates, we are quarantining, coming back, quarantining again with no end in sight.
The surge is real and no corner of the state, no school, is immune. Nearly one in five of all tests in Wisconsin performed in a one-week period have come back positive, and it’s time for leaders to stop ignoring the problem.
With a gaping hole in leadership at the federal level, and a state legislative majority that refuses to come into session to do their job, our schools are relegated to the sidelines to watch the fallout.
Educators know the realities of our jobs. We bring our own supplies. We make sure our students have food to eat. We have a plan for active shooters to protect them from intruders. Believe us. We want nothing more than to be with our students. But only when it is safe for them to return.
COVID-19 has no barriers and, as individuals who are in contact with students for hours at a time, we have an obligation to ensure we are not unknowingly spreading the virus to our students or to our families. Too many districts are tinkering around the edges, putting students and staff in unsafe positions and increasing the workload for educators who are already at the breaking point.
Wisconsin Public School educators call on all school districts to put the safety of students and staff first, making decisions based on scientific benchmarks and ensuring adequate funding to fully implement safety measures.
Like everyone else we wish there was not a pandemic, but wishing doesn’t make it so. It’s time for true leadership.