Rachel Kanz: Why I won't risk your kids — a teacher's letter to parents

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Dear Parents,

Every day, when I step into my classroom, I do so knowing that you are trusting me with your child — as I entrust my own children to my colleagues teaching high school.

This is not a responsibility I take lightly and it has created a relationship of deep trust between myself and your child as well as myself and you, their parent. I value this trust. I cherish this trust. And if I return to the classroom with your child on Sept. 14, I will be knowingly breaking this trust.

This letter is not about the politics of COVID-19. I will not dive deep into the numbers, into the red and blue states, into masks, or even into the privilege inherent in my upper-middle-class white life.

If you are confused about why I do not feel safe in the classroom, I encourage you to look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Highlights include "more research and evaluation is needed on the implementation of mitigation strategies (e.g., social distancing, cloth face coverings, hand hygiene, and use of cohorting) used in schools to determine which strategies are the most effective."

I will not condone using your child as a human test subject to gather this data.

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There is more. When I step into my classroom, I choose to put the life of your child above that of my own life. This decision could have lasting emotional effects on my husband and children, but in the end it is my body I am choosing to gamble, not theirs.

When I step into my classroom this fall, I am not just gambling with my body. I am gambling with the bodies of your children and the bodies of my family. And this is asking too much of me.

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I stand with my local teachers union when I call for a remote start to the school year.

Working parents? I see you. I am you. Single parents? I see you. Parents of children who have special needs? I see you. I am you.

Some of you are being forced to choose between your job and your child. Some of you are being forced to choose between providing basic necessities for your child and providing supervision for your child. These awful choices were a reality for many of you before March 13, and these choices have become part of many more since.

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The failure of our government to provide a safety net for our children is part of a larger issue. When schools' operation is business as usual, they can provide enough of a safety net to keep you afloat. We can provide before- and after-school care, we can provide lunch and even send home grab-and-go dinners. But right now, we cannot do this in person, and for this I am very sorry.

I see you, I hear you, I am you. But I cannot — I will not — break the trust of your children and welcome them back into the physical classroom.

This is not forever. The Massachusetts Teachers Association has issued thoughtful reopening guidelines that were written with the primary purpose of ensuring a physically and emotionally safe in-person environment for your child.

Please join us in working with school administration to carefully and transparently articulate and find solutions to the myriad of safety issues before your child gets back on that bus. In the meantime, know the teachers of your child are preparing to start this school year by providing an equitable, meaningful and robust remote education.

Rachel Kanz teaches middle school English at Richmond Consolidated School.


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