Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, I have watched school boards across the Metro Atlanta area struggle with preparedness of how to protect our students and. When I speak of protection, I mean protecting their health and wellness, educational growth, professional growth and support of families.
One of the most asked questions of back to school has been, “why are schools not prepared!?” A question students, parents and even educators are asking of educational leaders.
The reasons range from calendar restrictions, the time frame of one fiscal year ending to the start of the new one, summer school, programs, and initiatives as well as back to school. This leaves little time for educators to rest and prepare for the next year.
I constantly hear stakeholders say, “Teachers get the entire summer off!” But in reality, after the school year and pre-planning ends, it’s the beginning of June. By the time the fourth of July comes around, some teachers and staff are already preparing to return to work to be ready for schools opening before or by August 1st.
On top of all of this, we have to add on the fact that we are still opening schools, either for face to face, virtual or hybrid learning models, in a pandemic that has reports of increasing cases of COVID-19 daily. I don’t believe enough time and attention was placed on driving accountability measures or providing guardrails to ensure our students and staff were as best protected as possible.
Protecting the health and wellness of students and teachers isn’t simply passing a mask mandate. Some Metro Atlanta school districts such as Cobb County decided not to mandate masks at all. It’s the intentionality of school boards to ensure that our buildings and staff are ready to follow and implement protocols that will help lessen the spread and increase in COVID-19 cases.
However, politics has been the scapegoat of why decisions to reopen schools in the same manner as before is happening. Unfortunately, it seems as if political influences and power struggles from state governors to local school boards have complicated if masks should be mandated or not, thus complicating the health and safety of our school systems.
Community members and parents are alerting Metro Atlanta school boards of increases in cases and unavailability of medical treatment in their communities. Yet, school boards are operating school systems under a lot of pressure and seemingly no concrete plan of action.
The biggest concern is how long students and teachers will be at risk of being exposed because of the lack of staff, resources, and innovation around how to reimagine the way in which we do school.
See more on how school boards can be better prepared to support safe and successful operations of schools during the pandemic.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.