As many schools have already opened across the state, some are doing distance-learning and some are trying a hybrid approach

According to a recent survey of teachers in the state of Tennessee, many have reported their dissatisfaction with what has been promised to them from Governor Bill Lee. Apparently, the cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment have either not arrived yet, or what they’ve gotten is less than appropriate, especially since there is no statewide mask mandate in place. According to Science Alert, “Two medical-grade masks, N99 and N95, are the most effective at filtering viral particles.” 

Some teachers are saying they are receiving masks made from socks.

One teacher in Lebanon, Tennessee, said, “I purchased 20 N-95 masks off eBay for $279, have my own wipes, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning supplies since our school doesn’t know when the supplies will arrive for our classrooms.” This teacher will not be reimbursed for these purchases, a complaint teachers consistently have as an inherent hazard of the job when it comes to needed supplies for their classrooms. 

Teachers are using their stimulus money to buy supplies

Another teacher said she used her stimulus check to buy nearly $1,000 of extra supplies for her classroom, such as “hand sanitizer, hand soap, a mop, floor cleaner, hand lotion, separate storage caddies for paraprofessionals, storage containers for student’s belongings and supplies, fabric and thread to make masks, face shields, vacuum bags, vacuum filter, vacuum belt, rags, alphabet stamps, ink pads, disinfection wipes, garment bags, batteries, facial tissue, trash bags, 3 face shields, dish rags, dish soap, thermal laminating pouches, clipboards, digital materials for teaching, headset with microphone, crayons, markers, Keurig coffee maker, dry erase markers, dry erase boards.”

Schools are opening at different times across the state, some delayed

Doctors have asked Governor Lee to delay the opening of schools.

Even though many schools were supposed to start already, some have pushed their opening dates back, such as the Milan Special School District in Gibson County, a small town in West Tennessee. They were slated to begin on August 3 for students, but they opened August 10 instead, so far successfully with no reported COVID-19 cases, according to an anonymous source as of August 15. Other schools in the area are going fully virtual though.

Wilson County delayed their opening by two weeks until August 17 because of a “rise in new COVID-19 cases”, while Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools pushed back their opening until August 31 that “gives families more time to prepare for traditional or virtual school, allows faculty and staff more time to prepare for health and safety protocols and helps them to better determine bus routes.”

As many schools have already opened across the state, some are doing distance-learning, some are trying a hybrid approach, and others are moving straight ahead with in-person classes, with or without mask requirements or proper personal protective equipment. One teacher is concerned because they “can’t socially distance students” and “have to eat lunch with students in the room unmasked.”

What teachers are doing to prepare for students’ return

In the survey sponsored by Shout Your Cause, one of the questions is, “Are you taking any personal safety measures of your own, such as wearing scrubs or other easily cleaned clothing, wearing a mask, a shield, separating desks?” An anonymous teacher responded, “Wearing mask and shield, plexiglass on desk, teaching from one spot. Separated desks as much as possible by removing 7 pieces of furniture but still cannot have even 3 feet of distancing. Asked about wearing scrubs but not allowed.”

A Facebook group with over 6,000 members who are mostly teachers, staff, or advocates for teachers, is on a mission to safely reopen when COVID-19 conditions are right. They “demand a safe return to campus,” and “refuse to return to campus until our counties report no new cases of COVID-19 for at least 14 days.” In Tennessee and many other states in the south, this appears to be a tall order, as governors and school administrators are not necessarily in full support of what these teachers are concerned about.

One teacher in Lavergne, near Nashville, states that after spending her days at school during in-service training, “I have been avoiding people, showering as soon as I get home, wearing masks, and volunteering to teach remotely.” Another teacher in Knoxville is taking a leave of absence for medical reasons because her district is opening in person.

Sally Hendrick of Shout Your Cause is a Nashville based statistician with a 25-year background in actuarial science. She loves to travel with her family while keeping a finger on the pulse of U.S. politics. Sally also runs her own Facebook ads agency, enjoys writing, art, culture, music, and languages.

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