WASHINGTON, D.C. — The second spring of the COVID-19 pandemic brings to focus the efforts some are going through to try and salvage some of this school year.
How to do that safely, though, is exposing tensions between parents, teachers and administrators across the country.
“I think we’re putting them in a very unsafe situation,” said Olivia Gessner, a Seattle teacher, said at a recent protest. “I don’t think our building is ready.”
Fred Podesta of Seattle Public Schools felt differently.
“I think it’s a safe place to be, a safe place to work, a safe place for students,” he said.
With each state coming up with its own plan, researchers at Johns Hopkins University created an interactive online dashboard, as part of its eSchool+ Initiative.
“It's intended to be something that anybody can go to as a resource,” said Megan Collins, co-director for the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School Based Health Solutions.
It works like this: you click on the website, found here, and scroll down.
It lays out what schools are doing in each state, with a dashboard covering teacher vaccinations. There is also a tracker that contains everything from in-person learning to specific reopening plans, as well as tracking the number of COVID-19 cases in a state.
“I'm both a mother and a teacher and an educator,” said Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools. “So, I certainly do see this from multiple sides.”
Anderson is also both a former teacher and school principal, who worked on the Johns Hopkins tracker.
“I think ultimately everyone wants schools to get reopened,” Anderson said. “They want kids to get back in classrooms, but people want to feel safe.”
In the coming months, new information for each state could potentially get added, including whether or not schools will require teachers and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We're already collecting that data at the state level as to whether state Boards of Education are mandating teachers for vaccination,” Collins said. “To date, we don't see anybody having moved in that direction, but you are seeing murmurs of that in other industries.”
With vaccine trials now underway in children, whether students are required to get the vaccine will be another question needing an answer.
“I think that's one of the things we're ready to commit to in our vaccine tracker, is looking ahead to, ‘what are the requirements of the school level going to be for vaccinating students?’” Collins said.
To learn more about the Johns Hopkins eSchool+ Initiative, click here.