Tales from the Trenches – California Teachers Association
Normally, the first day back after the winter holidays, we have almost 100% attendance, but on Monday January 3, 30% of the pupils were absent. On Friday, less than 50% of the students were present. It was a shocking progression – and not just at Hayward High, but across the district.
There have been voluntary tests in the student parking lot twice a week since the start of the school year. Before winter break, you might have two or three people in line, but since we got back on Monday, the line has gone from the parking lot to the street and the block. It was as if we had entered the twilight zone.
I asked a student to use the bathroom, and when he came back he handed me something. I realized it was his rapid response COVID test. The student asked, “Am I HIV positive? and indeed he was. I had to wash my hands for 20 minutes.
Imagine having a special education class with absent paraeducators. Some of our students with special needs need help going to the bathroom. We were in dire straits without enough substitutes. We had six classes in the cafeteria with administrators supervising the students due to the lack of substitutes.
In mid-January, our school board held an online emergency meeting attended by over 2,200 parents and made the decision to return to virtual learning and independent study for a week. This gave 10 days (including the Martin Luther King holiday) for students and staff to get through the quarantine period and better control the situation.
The parents wanted that. Parents who wanted their children back to school were now saying, “Shut it up and give us a chance to slow the spread of the virus.” During the week of e-learning, my students’ attendance increased to almost 100%. The learning was happening.
State leaders are threatening our district with huge financial loss because we went virtual, but the situation was so bad we had no choice. We feared for the safety of our children and staff. I don’t think the state legislature has any idea what the public wants and what’s going on during this wave. Lawmakers are not in the trenches with us.
I’m doing with the support of my union. HEA has been there for members who call with questions or need help. We publish a Friday follow-up weekly to keep members informed. We are here for each other, and we will get through this together.