“Be your own biggest advocate.”Kelsey Garvey
How to safely return to school has been a hot topic and rightfully so as COVID-19 has changed all our lives. School districts around the country have kicked-off the 2020-21 school year, while many others are gradually resuming. The plans for returning range from universal remote, face to face, a hybrid model, starting virtually and phasing in students and staff, or offering parents the virtual choice only. The plans are as different as the opinions swirling around. However, the hope is that as a country we can agree on how to return safely. This must include teacher and staff safety and more specifically those with underlying conditions.
A recent news report revealed that in Gwinnett County Public Schools Georgia’s largest school district upwards of 250 employees tested positive for the coronavirus. An alarming number and students are a week away from returning. How many of these teachers were at high risk? In the state of Florida, teachers are suing over the school reopening amid positive cases growing in Florida. The positive testing rate in Florida rose to 14.7%, the highest in a week, up from 5% in May. Public health experts have urged school districts to delay in-person schooling if their region has a positive testing rate higher than 5%. In Chicago, Max Schoenberg, the president of the Elmhurst Teachers’ Council, which is the teachers union, wrote a letter to the District 205 School Board and administrators, recommending that all the schools begin the school year with online instruction only. Schoenberg said 24 percent of the district’s teachers are over the age of 50, and 54 percent either have an underlying medical condition that increases the risks associated with COVID-19 or are caring for a family member with such a condition.
I believe that transparency and the courage to be vulnerable (Thank you Brene Brown!) shatters isolation and affirms that we are not alone. I am an educator with an underlying condition and am navigating this critical time. I’ve done a lot of research and self-educating. If I truly believe we are in this together, here are a few resources that led my advocacy.
- Are you at increased risk for severe illness?
- Centers for Disease Control, Find Out.
- Is your underlying condition covered under the American with Disabilities Act?
- United States Department of Labor, Find Out.
- Did you know as a diabetic you can request a reasonable accommodation?
- American Diabetes Association, Learn How.
- How the CARES Act can work for you?
- U.S. Department of Treasury, Learn How.
You are armored with how to begin advocating for your physical wellbeing! Now, let’s ensure this is balanced with resources for your mental wellbeing. Healthline has cool and cleaver tips, like taking an interactive self-care quiz to access immediate needs or a self- care game (You feel like sh*t) created to address the daunting task of decision making during this season. I need this now and post-COVID.
It is my hope that you have been motivated to advocate for yourself now more than ever. As teachers we know that knowledge coupled with application things happen. The reignitED community is here for you and with YOU!