Educators will be returning to school soon and many are concerned about their safety and the safety of their students amid the coronavirus pandemic. As the state’s strongest voice for public education, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) believes any reopening plan has to not only ensure the health and safety of all students and educators, but also prioritize long-term strategies for student learning and educational equity.
Throughout the pandemic, AEA has been engaged in critical conversations with state school officials and has fought to support and protect all students and educators during this unprecedented time. After months of discussions with educators from every job classification, AEA President Sherry Tucker today releases a list of expectations for local school systems when considering school reopening plans. These expectations were crafted in response to educator concerns about returning to school and the most effective ways to ensure student success whether it’s in-person classroom instruction or remote learning.
AEA President Sherry Tucker said, “It is imperative that AEA speak up for the thousands of students and educators in Alabama. As the largest education association in the state, we stand ready to support the needs of students, educators, and communities during this critical time of planning to reopen Alabama schools and will continue to ensure the input of educators is part of the reopening process. AEA has a strong presence in every local school district in Alabama and we will closely monitor each system during this process while continuing to advocate for the safety of students and educators.”
AEA Expectations for Reopening Schools
- All educators should be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure safety while in school settings.
- Educators should be provided with the necessary sanitizers and cleansers to maintain a clean and sanitized environment for the students.
- Educators who are providing in-person at school instruction should not also be directed, required, or requested to teach remote classes beyond their normal teaching workday.
- School systems should provide the necessary technology for educators to provide remote learning where required and attend and/or host necessary meetings.
- Bus drivers are not health care professionals and should not be given the responsibility to determine student health including but not limited to taking temperatures, asking about symptoms, etc.
- Bus drivers should be given a clear plan on what to do if a child is sick when boarding a bus. Plexiglass should be installed to protect the driver from exposure.
- Custodians should not be required, directed, or requested to do any additional cleaning or sanitizing beyond their normal work hours without additional compensation.
- Custodians and maintenance workers should be provided protective wear and proper cleaning tools for any emergency cleaning required.
- School nurses or designee should be provided a clear plan of action when children present symptoms similar to COVID-19. The plan should include quarantine instructions, updated emergency contact information for each student, and any reporting requirements.
- In the cafeteria, plexiglass should be installed in locations where CNP staff and students interact.
- Plexiglass should be installed in front offices to protect clerical staff from exposure.
- Districts should create special protocols for students and educators who are at higher risk from COVID-19.
- Districts should develop protocols for classes with high exposure risks like music, chorus, band, etc. to include possible reduction in class sizes or relocating to larger areas to allow for increased social distancing.
- A quarantine area should be established and set up in each school to be used at the direction of the school nurse.
- Hand sanitizing stations should be available throughout each school, central office, maintenance facility, and transportation areas.
- To reduce contact exposure, educators should rotate classrooms instead of students changing classes. If not possible, a procedure for sanitizing desks between classes should be established.
- Student desks should be face forward to prevent extended face to face contact. Plexiglass should be installed between students’ desks to protect everyone from exposure, when possible. Small groups and circles in elementary grades should make sure to keep socially distanced when interacting as a group.
- All meetings should be done remotely when possible to limit the amount of exposure. This includes staff meetings, department meetings, IEP meetings, and parent-teacher conferences.
- Districts should provide training for educators on health and safety protocols and the school safety plan including guidelines on proper social distancing, hand sanitizing, and PPE requirements.
- School administrators should develop and implement procedures to check for signs and symptoms of students and educators daily upon arrival. Develop procedures for when a student or educator contracts COVID-19.
- School administrators should develop protocols and requirements for school visitors, including what happens if a visitor refuses to follow the school and district’s safety guidelines for COVID-19.
- All school districts should develop a clear plan of action in the event of the transition to all-school remote learning, including triggers for the transition, a contingency plan for the transition, and a communication plan for students, educators, and the local school community. The plan should be distributed to all employees, parent organizations, and local community leaders.