Parents Say Keep Our Kids and Educators Safe
Many educators have already been teaching in person for some time, and others are set to ease back into it this spring. A complete return to in-person instruction brings up many questions for educators and parents about safety.
CTA has been advocating for multilayered coronavirus health and safety measures, vaccines for educators, and the necessary funding to return to in-person instruction (#OnlyWhenItsSafe).
In the State Capitol and school districts throughout California, educators and their local associations continue to be a voice of reason defending community health, as some elected officials and small but very vocal groups clamor for schools to physically reopen, no matter the danger.
Despite the focus of news reports on these voices, a recent poll commissioned by CTA found that two-thirds of parents are satisfied with their child’s education this school year and 75 percent believe that student and educator safety is more important than returning to in-person instruction as soon as possible. This is particularly true among respondents of color, whose communities have been hit harder by the pandemic.
As students return to classrooms, we need to uphold parents’ trust by ensuring school districts follow the health guidelines to keep school communities safe.
Enforcement of state and county health regulations and our collectively bargained agreements is the next step to ensuring the safety of our communities. (See “Report a Safety Violation,” below.)
Opening and keeping our schools open for in-person instruction amid an ongoing pandemic will take all of us collaborating to protect our students, families and communities. Including students, educators, school staff, caregivers and families, more than half of California’s 40 million residents are impacted by public schools. We are truly #InThisTogether.
It will take the power of our solidarity and unity to overcome the coronavirus and fight racism.
During March 9-16, Hart Research Associates interviewed 1,839 registered voters (including 661 public school parents) in California about their views on whether, when, and how the state’s public schools should be reopened for in-school instruction. (For details about the survey, which was commissioned by CTA, see cta.org/covid-19.)
CTA and Hart Research held a virtual press conference on March 25 to announce survey results. The event included parents and educator Matthew Schneck speaking on behalf of students. Key findings:
♥ Majorities of voters (62 percent) and parents (70 percent) approve of the decisions their school district has made about whether, when, and how schools should reopen for in-person instruction, and 65 percent of parents are satisfied with their child’s education in the current school year.
“While you hear the negative parents more frequently, they are the exception and not the rule,” said Hart Research President Geoffrey Garin at the press conference.
♥ By large margins, voters (72 percent) and parents (75 percent) believe that the more important consideration in reopening schools should be keeping students, staff and families as safe as possible, as opposed to getting students back into classrooms as soon as possible.
♥ While a plurality of parents of color say schools are reopening at about the right pace, 40 percent of them think schools are opening too quickly, and only 17 percent say schools are opening too slowly. And while a majority of white parents say they are comfortable sending their own child to school for in-person instruction at this time, fewer than half of parents of color feel that way.
“Parents of color are more likely to be cautious about schools opening too quickly, not too slowly,” Garin said. “Only 22 percent of Black parents feel comfortable sending their child to school for in-person instruction.”
♥ By 57 percent to 35 percent, parents say they are more worried about their children being infected at school or infecting family members than about their children falling behind academically if only offered remote learning. When schools do reopen, half of parents (51 percent) will opt to keep their child participating in remote learning from home.
Said Garin, “Parents of color tend to be more concerned — they live in communities that have been affected by virus.”
“There will absolutely be parents — and I’ve spoken to them — who will not feel comfortable sending their kids to school in the fall, so there will have to be options for them,” said Matthew Schneck, a high school teacher and member of San Diego Education Association, at the press event.
♥ Large majorities of voters (78 percent) and parents (76 percent) think schools need to make major modifications to reopen for in-person instruction. What’s more, 71 percent of voters and 63 percent of parents say schools should reopen for in-person instruction only after teachers have had the chance to be vaccinated.
Top 5 Points From CDPH
On March 20, the California Department of Public Health issued a revision to its COVID-19 guidance for in-person instruction in schools. Key points:
- Maximize space between seating and desks. Distance teachers and other staff at least 6 feet away from students and other staff desks. Maintaining a minimum of 3 feet between student chairs is strongly recommended.
- Use of a hybrid model is permitted; full reopening not required. “In-person instruction” is defined as a school giving “all students in at least one grade the option to return for at least part of the school week.”
- Reopening allowed when adjusted case rate < 25. Schools may open for all grades in the purple tier when the adjusted case rate is less than 25 per 100,000 people per day, but they are not required to do so.
- COVID safety plan. Schools must complete and post a COVID-19 Safety Plan to their website prior to reopening for in-person instruction.
- Enforcement. Safety concerns should be reported immediately to your chapter leadership.
Make Our Air Safe
All children should breathe clean air at school, especially in communities already hard-hit by COVID-19. Social distancing is just one part of the safety equation. It cannot be considered in isolation.
Check out our guide below. Find a PDF version to print out at cta.org/covid-19.
Limiting Our COVID-19 Exposure in Our Shared Air Space
The time spent indoors with other people. We can reduce risk by reducing the amount of time people spend together indoors. In schools this can be accomplished by shorter days or hybrid models. This is why government health officials recommend limiting personal social gatherings with those from other households to less than two hours. Less time is less risk; longer time together increases risk.
How close you are to other people. We can reduce this risk factor by increasing the distance everyone in the room is from each other. This is why public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health continue to recommend social distancing when outside your home. Increasing the space between people can mean fewer people fit together in the indoor space — this mathematically reduces how much of the virus we might be exposed to. Smaller groups are less risky than larger groups. This is why CDPH officials and other experts on school safety have emphasized the importance of small, stable groups to prevent transmission and outbreaks.
How much of the virus people in the indoor space are exposed to. We can reduce the concentration of the virus people in the room may be exposed to in many ways, such as by wearing masks and improving ventilation and air filtration. If people are close together for long periods of time, reducing the virus’s concentration becomes absolutely essential.
Ways to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in shared spaces
- Improved ventilation and air filtration
- Regular asymptomatic testing for students and staff so infectious cases can be identified quickly and isolated early
- Vaccination opportunities for school communities, including parents and guardians
- High-quality masks with a good fit provided to students and staff and properly worn
- Keeping community COVID-19 rates low
- Fewer people together in a shared space
Report a Safety Violation
You can report safety violations at your school through your CTA site rep or safety rep, who will follow up to make sure unsafe situations are addressed and take it to chapter leadership if necessary. They will also enter the case into the CTA Safety Violation Database.
You can also:
- Call the COVID-19 School Hotline at 833-422-4255 (Mon-Fri 8 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat-Sun 8 a.m.–5 p.m.) or go to caschoolsopening.powerappsportals.us (under the tab “Comments and Concerns”) to report a violation.
- File a complaint with Cal/OSHA at dir.ca.gov/dosh/complaint.htm (any images that show student or staff faces should be blurred before uploading).
Your CTA primary contact staff is available for assistance.
For the latest information on the coronavirus, vaccines and more, go to cta.org/COVID-19.