Let’s Reopen Schools, But Let’s Do It Safely

By Jamal Bowman  

The federal government has completely failed our children and our families throughout this entire pandemic. Now, as Donald Trump aims his fire at school districts that won’t haphazardly reopen, we don’t have to keep accepting his failures as the best we can do. Just because he is too incompetent to lead, doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t. In fact, the wellbeing of our kids, the health of our families, and the rehabilitation of our economy depend on it.

First and foremost, you can’t plan for a safe reopening when you can’t pay for a safe reopening. So, where the hell is the money schools need? Congress needs to pass the HEROES Act with funding for school districts. Republicans in Congress have wasted months of time and billions of dollars, instead of creating safe solutions for our children. Not only do Republicans in Congress lack imagination, they lack compassion. 

As a public middle school principal, I know our schools are intimate communities within our greater communities. Reopening schools should not fall on just the shoulders of teachers and administrators. We need to have collaborative conversations with teachers, administrators, parents, students, physicians and all stakeholders. We need to create a plan for addressing and healing the collective traumas that our students and their families have faced during this unprecedented pandemic. Reopening will be a disaster, unless we come together now to create a cooperative plan that best meets everyone’s needs. 

It is the safety, health, and futures of our children, and our country, at stake here, and we can’t wait for Republicans to do their jobs. Our schools could be part of the problem, but I say let’s make them part of the solution. Let’s fight for funding to install proper ventilation systems to limit spreading the virus, and for supplies to keep our classrooms clean and safe. Let’s do as much COVID-19 testing, symptom monitoring, and contact tracing in our schools as possible. Let’s provide our students, teachers, and school workers with masks, that they can also use at home and in public. Let’s be prepared to listen to public health experts and keep our class sizes as small as possible as we use creative solutions, like keeping windows and doors open, or educating in larger spaces like theaters. 

Let’s reopen schools, but let’s do it safely. Despite what our failing president says, the two are not mutually exclusive. Our children deserve an education, and they deserve to be healthy and safe. Period. Let’s make it happen   

Jamaal Bowman of Yonkers, New York is a former public middle school principal and presumptive Democratic nominee for the 16th Congressional District in New York.