The Trump Administration took another step in its efforts to bring back teachers to classrooms during the pandemic.
“The Trump administration is now labeling teachers ‘essential’ workers, a move aimed at pushing school districts to open for in-person instruction for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.
DHS said the label is only advisory and not meant to be a federal directive. Still, school districts that want teachers to return to classrooms — even when teachers don’t think it is safe enough — could use the federal designation to bolster their own mandates.
Essential workers are those deemed by the DHS to work areas typically essential to continue critical infrastructure operations and who are expected to show up for their jobs on site because there is no other way to do them.
Schools closed last spring in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and teachers have done their jobs remotely.
School districts had hoped to begin the 2020-21 school year with campuses reopened, but some have decided the risk of spreading the disease is too high and have returned to remote learning. Others are allowing students who want to return to school to do so.
In July, President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos began a push to force schools to reopen and threatened to withhold federal funding to those that refused. (They don’t have unilateral power to withhold money that Congress has already approved.)
School district leaders have spent the summer preparing safety protocols aimed at preventing the virus’s spread when buildings reopen, but many teachers say not enough has been done to allow for safe reentry.
The teachers union in New York City threatened to strike if members are forced back into classrooms in September, and the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest national teachers union, said it would support strikes called in areas where teachers believe they are being forced into unsafe classrooms.”
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