MDCPS Reopening: Students Have a Choice, Teachers Do Not


Victoria Mavarez

As schools begin to reopen, it is nearly impossible for teachers to get permission to work from home.

Maia Berthier, Editor-in-Chief

I am angry. I am appalled that the livelihoods of our teachers, students and parents are just dollar signs for our state to bargain off and threaten to cut. I am outraged that the district and the state see it fit to not only make the return to school earlier than expected but to cut corners and make ill-prepared classrooms that only have 3 feet of social distancing (practically what we had before) a reality. I am ashamed that the politicians and school board members that many of our families voted for would make decisions that are in the best interests of their finances, and not their constituents.

No matter the precautions, our county is not ready for schools to reopen. Proper measures are not being taken, teachers hardly have a say in their own lives, and occupations and financial matters are becoming increasingly involved with these public health decisions.

As we consider how soon schools will be reopening, it is vital that proper precautions and the Center for Disease Control guidelines are being upheld. In a recent video curated by school board member Mari Tere Rojas, she tours our very own Coral Gables senior high, showing the “preparedness” of our school. In essence, the video depicted everything as it once was, with pieces of paper dictating “one-way hallways” and classrooms with desks three feet apart.

As a student at the school, everything looks just about the same as we left it- and that is not a good thing. It is extremely off-putting to see this “new normal” being taken lightly by our officials, especially with respect to the CDC social distancing guidelines, which are being completely ignored. It is rather odd that throughout this entire crisis, our county has followed through with the regulations of the CDC until it became inconvenient with them, denouncing their guidelines for the three feet that the World Health Organization recommends. Just a thought– if we are incapable of following the guidelines set by scientists and other health officials, it is too early to reopen.

Although this reopening is voluntary for students, teachers do not have that same privilege. Currently, the only case where teachers can remain teaching from home and their position can be secured is if they have approval dictated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning that their own lives would be put at risk if they return. However, this does account for the fact that many teachers may be at risk themselves, but their relatives or spouses may be the ones gravely impacted. The reality of this process is that it can take several weeks to get approval, and because of the new reopening date, teachers will be forced to return under conditions where they could potentially fall ill and be put in grave danger.

In all honesty, I would rather put myself in harm’s way than see the teachers that I have grown to love get sick because of the irresponsibility of the government officials who will never sit in a COVID-adapted classroom. There is a clear lack of empathy on their behalf; this is more than just briefings and words on paper– people will have to live with (or rather, die because of) the current decisions being made.

Another odd factor in this decision-making is the presence of economics on what will be a public health decision. In their statement, the school board described their change in decision from a unanimous postponement of the reopening of schools to a unanimous earlier reopening as a result of new health metrics that were made available. This change in the decision also coincided with a threat to cut school funding by the Florida Education Commissioner. Although the School Board does not fully acknowledge that their decision was based on the financial aspects of the commissioner’s letter, the actual metrics that were being discussed had little to no substantial statistical changes from one week to the next. This only proves that these changes were a direct result of the financial aspects of the school board’s propositions. Our lives are not just dollar signs– students, teachers and faculty are all real people that are worried about the future. Rushing to reopening is reckless, and must be avoided.

These decisions are more than just petty politics– they are the lives of our loved ones. A failure or wrong decision –on the scale of the K-12 platform incident, for example– would be catastrophic in the reopening of schools amidst the pandemic. Making decisions and acting as puppeteers when there are lives at risk is irresponsible and the collateral damage can be fatal.

We are not your test subjects. This is not a game. This is life and death.