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Saddleback Valley Educators Association (SVEA) President Denise Bradford recalls her first conversations with members in the wake of the pandemic; “When the subject of returning came up, many were unsure of the safety of everyone returning together.” Orange County School Board members voted earlier this month to open public schools without restrictions. This uncertainty has left some members to plan what seemed unthinkable; writing their Last Will and Testament in the event of their death by exposure to the virus while teaching.

For most educators, their biggest fear about returning to the work site is that it is not safe. SVEA has voiced concerns that air ventilation systems are not up to the standards they should be – making any close contact is cause for concern. “We can take students’ temperatures, but we all know Tylenol can lower a temperature” Bradford explained.

In her National Public Radio interview, Bradford explained the frustrations educators are feeling about a safe return to class; “There is no one more eager to get back to school than teachers like me.” But with so much uncertainty about what the school year will look like, particularly if outbreaks, quarantines, and contact tracing are required, planning for fatalities seems prudent.

Saddleback will begin the school year with distance learning, and are still negotiating details. Hybrid models have been developed for the return to in-class instruction when appropriate standards have been met.

And while Saddleback members agree that everyone should wear masks at all times, that thought is not shared community-wide. It’s that discordance which makes it very difficult to prevent contagious individuals from spreading the virus- particularly in an enclosed spaces like classrooms. It’s that ongoing threat of spreading the virus from schools to families (particularly elderly family members) that has weighed heavily in the minds of educators this summer.

SVEA members are continuing the fight to protect the health of their members and the community at large by standing strong and demanding a safe return to classrooms and worksites.