Back-to-school jitters not just kids stuff: parents, teachers, admins anxious

Back to School

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Back-to-school jitters are typically reserved for young students or new high schoolers — but Covid-19 has upped the anxiety level for nearly everyone in the school community.

Even seasoned veterans are not immune.

“I am not sending my own child to school,” said teacher Lisa Martin. “But if I am in the classroom with students, I can still be bringing (coronavirus) home to my family even though I am trying to protect my own child.”

Parents are also anxious about what is still an uncertain start to the school year.

“Once we go back and there’s one case, the school’s gonna shut down,” said Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin). “There will be disruption and parents will have to pivot and figure out what they’re doing.”

The threat of liability is also causing sleepless nights for school administrators.

“My understanding is we’re legally vulnerable,” testified Gary Niels at a PA House Hearing earlier in the week. Niels is the head of the Association of Independent Schools.

If schools reopen and a student or staff member gets sick or even dies, schools would be liable. They have asked lawmakers to pass liability protections but that hasn’t gained any traction thus far.

“No school can guarantee that their conditions are perfectly healthy, that everybody will be fine,” Niels said. “There’s no guarantee of that.”

Schools aren’t asking for guarantees, but they are asking for guidance from the state. After four months into the pandemic, are they not getting the help they need?

“To be honest with you, we don’t feel we are at this point,” said Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

PSEA has been a longtime supporter of Governor Tom Wolf, but the organization believes state guidance has been lacking in this instance.

“We need better language on social distancing and facial masks and other mitigation,” Askey said. “We need clearer metrics on whether a school should reopen face-to-face all the time or whether it should be a hybrid method. When do you close down? Right now, we don’t have those metrics and that’s not good.”

He noted that every day more and more schools are choosing to start the school year online only. He expects that trend to continue.

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