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Anyone else work in a school and afraid to go back?

mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

Now that my breast cancer is pretty much a "non-concern" I thought life would be less stressful. It isn't, in fact I don't know what caused me more stress, cancer of Covid.

I work in a middle school giving support to special education students within the regular education classes. This requires me to be "up close and personal" with my students. Of course, I will find a way to somewhat distance myself from them, but doubt it will be 6 feet all the time.

Where I live, suburbs of Philadelphia, there has been a slight increase of cases, but we aren't a "hot spot." We are, however, at a higher rate than when schools closed in the spring. I don't feel safe going back, even with half the student numbers, because most of my classes pre-Covid had 35 students. We were crammed in rooms.

No one knows what they are doing but I am so angry because all the students are at the age where their spread of the disease is the same rate as for adults. Have you seen how unsanitary kids are? I love them, but I always told people I work in a germ factory, and that is before Covid was ever heard of! I work with 6th and 7th graders.

I am retirement age, but need to work another 2 years or so to get our debt paid down to where I can afford to retire. Retiring now would be a disaster. I hate the comments I get from people at work, they think just because I am of age, I can afford to retire. I am not a highly paid teacher. I don't make the big bucks! I didn't work for the district for 30 years just to be forced to retire earlier than I can afford to.

The school administration acts as if it is no big deal. The teacher's union has protested going back in the buildings at this time, but the administration is holding on to their plan. Most every staff member wants to open as on-line only at least until we see how things play out. Everyone wants to be back in the school but only when it is safe. I know my life is one of the ones who is thought to be "expendable." My death would be looked at the same as all the poor souls from nursing homes, kind of, "well they had a good life" attitude. My heart literally breaks for all who have died from this and all who are going through so much pain and suffering. No one talks about the financial hit people are taking. Anyone who was hospitalized, especially in ICU, have a huge bill waiting for them.

I decided since I can't count on the schools to respect my life, I need to do all I can to protect myself when classes resume. I will wear gloves, face mask and face shield. I will distance myself as much as I can and supply my own wipes and hand sanitizer. I will try not to use the bathroom at school. I don't know what else to do?

I didn't survive breast cancer twice just to die of a virus because those in power are tired of the pandemic!

What are others doing? Your thoughts would be appreciated.



  • hersheykiss
    hersheykiss Member Posts: 625

    My doctor's wife teaches kindergarten. Her school district plans 100% in-person learning. My doctor purchased full PPE for his wife and her team (another kindergarten teacher, paraprofessional, and literacy teacher). He told me they are so very nervous. Some teachers have drawn up their wills over the summer.

    The decision to return to work/school/office is very difficult. I am not a teacher, but my remote work arrangement ends on August 3. I am not sure what I will do.

  • ajminn3
    ajminn3 Member Posts: 284

    Fellow sped teacher here. I teach elementary sped in a setting 3 ASD program. I provide a lot of support for my students that will not allow for social distancing (bathroom, meals/feeding, etc.). My state and district have not released their official plans beyond planning for all 3 options of distance, in person, or hybrid. I go back and forth with returning to school, but when it comes down to it, distance learning really is the way to go until covid is safely controlled. I struggle because distance learning was a disaster for my student population and selfishly, I miss my students and teaching in the classroom. I am anxiously awaiting to hear the official plans (supposedly coming by July 31).

  • ctmbsikia
    ctmbsikia Member Posts: 749

    Hey Maverick, I'm also outside of Philadelphia.

    My daughter who is young turning 34 next month is worried. She is good health wise but she is overweight which is a concern. I asked her honestly how she felt just for our own self, and she answered that she does not feel safe.

    She is a reading specialist which requires her to be with multiple groups of children per day. K thru 2- which if it's true at this age they are not found to be spreaders as much as children over the age of 9 or 10 years. She said I'd be cleaning more than teaching! District has sent out preliminary plans but there's so many moving parts and variables with transportation, lunches, after school programs. Right now, they are constantly making schedules, and then they are re-scheduling. Her union rep was not allowed to speak publicly in from of the school board. I can come back and update this, but I think they are coming up with an in-school plan, hybrid plan, and remote plan.

    I feel like in PA at least they are going to open, and that there could be lots of interruptions, but at least if they try it and fails, it will be a "known" right? It won't work. Then, hopefully the remote learning plan takes over until a vaccine is ready, or the virus just "disappears" like our Dear Leader thinks it will. He's an idiot.

    I feel for you teachers, especially special ed. If you must go, then yes gear up!

  • kksmom3
    kksmom3 Member Posts: 101

    I am a paraprofessional in a kindergarten class. I am beyond nervous and am thinking about just quitting. I'm 63, 2 years from some retirement benefits, not much since I've only worked in this district for 5 years, but it's not at all about the $. I can afford to quit, thanks to my husband. I just hate the thought of it. My district has to offer virtual learning. I've never been a spec ed para, only Gen Ed in K rooms for 20 some years, but I'm thinking about seeing if I'd qualify for a virtual para position.

    I already know I'd need to provide doctor's documentation. Is my diagnosis from almost 2 years ago enough? You can see my treatment in the tag line. I should have no problem with my immune system,....... but I am 63, other than fricking cancer, I'm in pretty good health!! I don't know FOR SURE that my dr would sign off.......or if I even want to do this.

    I can't see me being in a classroom with 20-21 kids. I'd have to social distance from my teacher, I mean, how is that supposed to work? We are mandated to wear a mask and a shield, but I'm just wondering what this is going to look like. My stress level is getting quite high and we know that's not good for us either.

    It might be time to say good-bye and that makes me as sad as finding out I had cancer!

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    ajminn3, I here you about the spec ed population. So many kids have no support at home to help them. Lets face it, the whole educational system took a hit with this virus. But, kids are resilient and will bounce back. I just want all of us to be alive so when there is finally some control of the virus via drugs and vaccines, we can all get back in the classroom.

    Consistency, starting remotely and going back when it is safe to do so, is really the best way. Starting/stopping, alternating days, are not going to be effective.

    My husband and I need to get our will revised. I have to put it on my *must do* list!

    ctmbsikia, the problem is by "fail" I assume you mean there will be cases and people will die? When I heard someone in the south say "we could lose 2-3% in the schools," I felt like screaming at him! My school is huge. 2-3%= over 20-30 people, students and staff. Which students and staff deaths would he be okay with???

    I know how hard it is, particularly with elementary ages, when both parents are working. Both my children have children who are very young and they are having a hard time juggling work and kids. But, at the end of the day, they are all healthy and alive, at least for now! I think that must be a priority!

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149

    My DD is an elementary music teacher. She gets the whole school over a week. As opposed to the classroom teacher with the same group of kids. She also has 2 kids, one to be in 7 th, one to be in 10. Unfortunately we are in Florida with a governor who is the laughing stock of our country. The biggest teacher union in Florida has sued the idiot, and put up a petition against reopening classrooms.

    I’m worried sick about all of it. I’d like to see the schools stay closed until this is better controlled or gone. I understand child care is an issue for parents, death is a bigger more pressing issue. Or should be. Who will take care of the kids if parents are dead? I worked for my local school district for over 23 years. Lunch lady, then bus driver . If I hadn’t retired then, I’d be gone now No way would I sit in one of those big yellow germ factory with those kids

    Wear a mask people. Tell your officials to keep the schools closed.

  • fishingal68
    fishingal68 Member Posts: 32

    I feel your pain! I work in a high school setting with Career & Technology Education students from several high schools. My job requires 1-on-1 interaction, especially with students with special needs. I live in 1 state (OK) where face masks are not mandated, and work in another one (MO). Governors in both states are okay with schools opening up.

    To add to my worries, my labs have been low since I was on chemo (2 years ago), and have not rebounded. I'm scheduled for a bone marrow biopsy on Monday and return to school next Thursday.

    Our local district is going with 3 options for most students; however, tech kids have to be here every day, so we'll be full in my building. We are being provided with 2 face masks & a bottle of cleaner to clean at our own discretion, but even that has me freaked out.

    My best friend had an allergic reaction to the cleaners used in her office. She got so sick that it created other issues & she ended up in ICU. (She's still there).

    I can't afford not to work. I can't afford another health crisis. I have obtained my own masks, cleaner, and gloves, but is that enough?

    So, what's a girl to do?

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    Oh fishingal68! I am so sorry, completely understand, but don't know what else to say or what to do. It is all messed up. The rich will survive, the rest of us, not so much.

    I just received a copy of our schools opening plans via email. Half number of kids, alternating days. I don't trust the administration. I need to upgrade my will for sure!

    I have to go back because I can't afford not to. I am so depressed! I dealt with the threat of a school shooter, which still can happen, but at least with a shooter you have half a chance of defending yourself and the kids! You know who the threat is. Now all we can do is think of each child and adult as being positive for Covid.

    Spookiesmom, I wrote to our superintendent twice, no response. The second time I spoke up for our bus drivers, because I don't think administration cares about them at all. Many were older and I don't expect them to come back. Maybe with so many out of work more people will apply, but why? Pay is horrible, conditions are horrible and the roads are a mess. I always said they couldn't pay me enough to be a bus driver and that was before Covid! I was a bus aide on the "short bus" for special education summer programs for two summers. What an eye opener. Some of those poor kids spend over an hour on the bus one way! I don't know how you did that job!

    I can tell you, I won't be doing my job as normal. I don't even care about doing my job. Honestly I am so afraid, I can't think about helping the kids, I can only think about staying away from them! I never thought it would come to this! I love the kids, I usually do a fair share of comforting them, but now, how do I do that safely?

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149

    Ha, it’s amazing what a person will do for over 23 years for insurance. What has me gobsmacked with the busses is, they are saying the kids will load from the back, exit out the front. What? They’re going to use ladders to get in? I’m 5’4”. It was a real stretch for me to reach the back door handle. Just another example of them not thinking things through.

    And thank you for being concerned about all support personnel.

  • salamandra
    salamandra Member Posts: 725

    I'm a high school special ed teacher and I'm terrified. I teach in NYC, in one of the heavier hit areas.

    There was a week in April when every single day I learned of another student in my school who lost their parent or primary caregiver grandparent. And then on top of that the long term hospitalizations and waiting for news.

    I don't believe that any precautions the city actually does take (in reality, not in fancy papers) will be effective. I don't see how we avoid going back to April. I'm basically looking at helping to orphan my students.

  • bcincolorado
    bcincolorado Member Posts: 4,684

    Both of my children are teachers. My son also has 4 kids who will all be in school as well. My daughter-iin-law in an onco RN. They are all terrified.

    My daughter ln Wyoming and works in a small town where distancing is easy for them in their classes at least.

    My son teaches in a smaller school but distancing may NOT be an option for them and they live near a big city and DIL works at a major hospital.

    It sounds like both districts plan on doing a combination of classroom and distance learning with maybe reduced time in the classroom and then also doing online instruction as well.

  • Mominator
    Mominator Member Posts: 1,173

    I am a special education paraprofessional. I work in Kindergarten in a Pre-K to grade 8 school (about 350 students total).

    Our Board of Education had a Zoom meeting to inform us of what school will look like in September. BOE is planning for back to school, in person classes with lots of safety measures: masks on everyone, desks 6' apart, gallon-sized hand sanitizer everywhere, temperature checks, changes in schedules so less people in hallways, etc. There will be no shared materials (pens, pencils, iPads).

    They are also building in "mask breaks" during the day. Lunch will be in the gym, with a special table set-up, assigned seats, Plexiglas barriers. There will be other breaks as well, such as teaching outdoors sitting more than 6 feet apart.

    Also, there will be parallel, virtual teaching as well. About 25% of parents said that they would be keeping their children home in September. These students will be taught similar to what we did for March-June. Teachers in the building will be focusing on their students. Virtual teachers will be getting a special stipend to be the virtual teacher for a grade. A teacher may do the virtual during their breaks, prep time, before/after school time, or another teacher may be the virtual teacher.

    The school is planning that if "Johnny" comes to school in September, and then if his family needs to quarantine for 2 weeks, Johnny will be then switch to the virtual teaching class. The virtual class will be taught at the pace as the in school class. At the end of quarantine, Johnny comes back to school, again at the same place as his peers.

    We shall see.

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    Mominator, I am so sorry that your mother, grandmother and friend battled cancer, and that you had to go through so many major surgeries to try to prevent it from happening to you!

    As for school opening, at least kindergarten students aren’t passing the disease like older students, but how can anyone avoid close contact with them? They are little and many will have increased separation anxiety! I simply don’t get it. Whoever thinks in-school learning is going to be so much better, has never worked in a school, let alone one under pandemic conditions! I wish all school was virtual until there are enough effective vaccines and drugs to fight this!

    I am also a special education paraprofessional, in a middle school. I don’t know if I will have a job in the fall. If they go to on-line school, I don’t think they will use us like they did in the spring. No one knows what is happening in September because the status of the virus changes daily. The only thing for certain is they won’t get the funding to operate as they did other years. So many don’t have jobs and can’t pay their taxes. All the extra safety equipment costs a lot of money. Less income and more expenses. It’s a catch 22!

    Just so much we don’t know about this virus! I have never been so stressed or so afraid to work in a school!

    Both my husband and I are revising our wills. I don’t think life will ever be back to the old normal

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    Another large, highly respected, district near me, just made the decision not to go back to the building in any form until after Sept 29th. From normal Sept start date, until the 29th, all schooling will be on-line learning only. Then it will go to either parent choice of continued in home learning only or a hybrid choice where half students go in the buildings on M/T, all on -line on Wed. and other half Th/F in school.

    I think that is smart as it gives time to see what the spread in this area is like at that time.

    I still think it is ironic that no one is talking about how substitutes will fit into the in-the-building concept? My district couldn't get enough subs in a normal school year, how is this going to change now? Oh well, that is way above my pay grade to figure out.

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149

    Our schools normally start the first week in August. Some districts have pushed it back to the last week. Our superintendent is still farting around with the date. Yeah, welcome to Florida

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149


  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,646

    I teach first grade. I have been teaching with stage IV bc for the last nine years! The first thing I’d like to clear up is a comment someone made earlier. Most public school teachers are not highly paid nor do we “make the big bucks”. Relative to educational requirements for obtaining a teaching credential in most states, we are not highly paid. So yes, we make more than aides or para-professionals, but if making the big bucks is your goal, don’t become a teacher. Onwards... My district is starting with distance learning and has plans for using a staged return to slowly move us back to the classroom as health and safety conditions merit. Using available funds and grants , the district is purchasing PPE for all staff.

    I want to be in the classroom with my students, everyone wants that but not until themany unknowns about Covid, children, and transmission risks are better understood. Many of my colleagues, myself included, spent the summer working on how to make distance learning more robust. We focused on essential standards, take home supply boxes so all students will have what they need (from iPads to crayons!) to start school. Over the next two weeks, I am taking several courses to help me learn to use all of my online teaching tools most effectively. I have also participated in focus groups with parents to understand their concerns and find ways to support them. I have taken additional workshops on social emotional learning as well as this will be important. This not so highly paid teacher did this all without being paid because my sole aim is to deliver the best possible academic program to my students under highly unusual circumstances.

    I am very thankful that my school district valued the opinions of all stakeholders and recommendations of our county health department In making their decision. It will not be perfect but it’s the right thing to do.

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    Exbrnxgrl, obviously you took issue with my “highly paid teacher” comment. I don’t know what you think is highly paid, but all the teachers I work with, in my age bracket with 30 years experience like I have, are making $130,000 to $150,000. I am a paraprofessional and lucky to make $26,000. So yes, to me they are highly paid! I gave up my job doing research for a major pharmaceutical company and started working in the school because I wanted to be available for my kids when they started school. Money wise, I was a fool to switch jobs, but I traded money for memories and time with my children, especially in the summer, and that is priceless! I love the students I work with and I KNOW I make a difference in their lives or I would have quit years ago! My comments were not meant as a negative towards teachers but to explain my situation. I am sorry If you aren’t making “big bucks!

    I battled cancer twice while working at the school and am high risk for Covid due to age and other health issues.

    Your other comments were very interesting to me. I expect to be furloughed or go back to half student population. I won’t know for several weeks as no definitive decision has been made. I too want to get back with my students. Having half the students with PPE ( gloves, masks, and face shields) isn’t ideal, but I will do it if that is what the school board decides.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,646

    I am a long term teacher who is at the upper end of the salary range but it took a long time to get there. I live and work in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places to live in the US. But most of our newer teachers are struggling mightily to make ends meet and have little hope of buying a home here unless they have a partner making quite a bit more money. Public school teachers are not getting rich no matter how long they've worked. Remember that salaries are only relevant when compared to the cost of living in a given area. $130,000. may sound like a lot but it's not in Hawaii or California for example. It also took many years to get there. Check out teacher salaries at year 10 or 15. Not quite that high! On the first day that my daughter went to work for Apple, she made just about what I was making after years of teaching and now makes far more.

    I'm not sure what our aides will be doing this year. Some, who are one to one aides for SPED students, may be able to provide remote support. During our differentiated reading time, I teach a group that has two instructional aides but since we won't be following that model online, I hope my district finds something for them to do until we return to the classroom. I never imagined that this is how my beloved career would end (will most likely retire after this year). Education is my passion so I'll have to find an outlet for it post-retirement. Ed law fascinates me so maybe I can find some kind of advocacy volunteer work.

    I am taking care of my daughters cat this week. I am so desperate to introduce some bright and curious minds to all the wonders of the world that I might start trying to teach the cat to read 😉.

    Anyway, best of luck to all of us and I hope each of your school districts err on the side of caution.

  • bcincolorado
    bcincolorado Member Posts: 4,684

    Son called last night and his district still has not decided what to do.

    He is also the head football coach as well and of course fall sports are at up in the air as well.

    His kids are anxious to go to school including the youngest who was looking forward to starting kindergarten this year with "the big sibllings" said. Now that may not happen either and they'll end up doing online teaching at home again or a hybrid.

    Some of our districts are doing 2 days in the classroom spaced apart and 3 at home online but parents can opt to do all online if you want as well.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,646

    Unfortunately I live in a highly impacted county and as far as I know, most public school districts are starting remotely. I think almost all of the students will be disappointed by this model but so are the teachers. However according to state and county guidelines, in person classes would not currently be possible. My district is allowing teachers to deliver class from the classroom! I’m very happy about that since I would have to keep going to my classroom every week to get what I needed. I am very happy to liberate my dining room table from being my “classroom”. For the teachers who have their own children at home it’s nice that they’ll have the teach from home option as well

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149

    In FloriDuh the major Union is sueing the state against opening for in person class. The state constitution says must be in a safe environment. This isn’t. Fingers are being pointed in all directions.

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    exbrnexgrl, as soon as I read Silicon Valley, I said “ohhhhhh!" I live in a moderate area, but no where near as expensive as where you live! Yep, I couldn't afford to rent a dog house in SiliconValley! Now I understand your perspective!

    You aren't the only one who never expected to retire like this, although I am hoping to last two more years. I thought the threat of school shootings was the worst that could happen. Wrong!

    I am kind of feeling depressed because my husband and I are updating our wills. I am ashamed to say we haven't done that since the late 1980's! My grandchildren are the age our kids were at that time! Yep, don't need a guardian, we need to name a new executor, etc. It is so depressing but who knows when we would have made new wills if not for the pandemic and my fear of going back or work?

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,149

    There is a law firm here who is offering FREE living wills to teachers, or support

  • minustwo
    minustwo Member Posts: 13,000

    I live in Houston. Very experienced, long term teacher make maybe $60,000. And that's in the cosmopolitan big city. Teachers start out at $23-25K. Many have to take 2nd jobs to make ends meet. It's a pittance and a shame - and everyone in the country should be embarrassed that we don't pay better wages to the very people who are training the next generation. Those should be the brightest and the best and we should reward them accordingly. And no, I'm not a teacher but I am a Mother of grown children.

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,048

    We had so many changes to make in our wills, that we are spending a bit more to have new wills drawn up. I am not as depressed about it today, but I am the type of person who likes everything done yesterday, so waiting for new forms, etc is bothering me. I am keeping busy decluttering my house! Too hot to do yardwork and after 40 years in same house, the decluttering should keep me busy until school starts, in whatever form it takes.

    I rarely listen to the radio, but today I did and wish I hadn't. A DJ on the station which is located in New Jersey, was going on and on about how wearing a mask has not proven to be helpful and it is all a conspiracy. Then he went on and on about how schools should never have been closed, blah, blah, blah. He is lucky I couldn't smack his face over the airwaves!

    I am still nervous about going back, but I decided I have to do everything I can to protect myself and help the students. I know schools won't change their starting plans for opening school if things go from green to yellow, but I am certain the governor would step in and shut things down if the numbers really start to climb. He is the one who shut our schools down in March. I have to return to work if I have the opportunity to do so, therefore I am trying to stay positive.

  • ladyc2020
    ladyc2020 Member Posts: 87

    Ugh what terrible situations so many are in right now. Can you ask for reassignment of some sort? Which does not have contact with the kids? Report writing? Meetings by zoom? Online tutor?Here all schools will be online. Of course,very hard for working parents, but cases are high. I have pulled my little from preschool and will do my best to work around around. I can imagine how frustrating and worrying this is.

  • peregrinelady
    peregrinelady Member Posts: 416

    I was hoping for the choice to teach remotely as I am high risk with hypertension and microvascular heart disease. However, our district is going with the state online program for parents who choose that option. Those teachers are already trained for online and so it does make sense. There was mention of what to do about high risk teachers at the board meeting tonight and the superintendent said they are looking into the American Disabilities Act. So, hopefully there will be some answers soon. I would love to be in the classroom, of course, but also am not thrilled with the “masks are encouraged “ policy.

    I also signed up for a long term disability policy, so now I am wondering if I can use that for this school year.

  • ajminn3
    ajminn3 Member Posts: 284

    My state (MN) released their guidelines on school reopening with specific requirements per county depending on how many cases per 10,000 people there are along with a plan to designate money and supplies to make sure staff and students have PPE needed. Each district makes their own plan. My district should be releasing their plans sometime today since the school board is voting on it in a special session this morning. I’m curious to see the plan!

  • kksmom3
    kksmom3 Member Posts: 101 husband asked me last night if I knew I could possibly get cancer again, would I go back to work? Uh - absolutely not! So, switch the word cancer for Covid.

    For what it's worth tho - I did ask my med oncologist about my personal risk, history of cancer, lump/rads almost two years ago. She said it put me at no greater risk than if I hadn't had cancer. I'm still 63 though......I need to decide soon. Doctor said a lot of her patient's have been asking.