After months of staying home to fight the spread of COVID-19, we all desperately want to get back to “normal.” Educators and PSRPs are missing the daily personal interaction with students and colleagues, and many parents are struggling to help their kids with remote learning while working remotely themselves. Still others are unable to work at all because of a job loss or lack of access to daycare for their children.
Reopening our schools will be key to recovering from this pandemic, both emotionally and economically. It is essential that happens safely. That’s why the IFT is working to ensure we have a powerful voice in what reopening looks like, for the sake of our members, students, and communities.
“We understand that our members in many districts are very concerned about the lack of guidance about reopening schools, so IFT is stepping up to take the lead and help address the need,” said IFT Secretary-Treasurer Jane Russell.
Throughout May, the union focused our efforts on collecting member feedback. Through a joint survey from the IFT, Illinois State Board of Education, and other stakeholders, we sought input from educators and PSRPs about how remote learning worked during the spring and what resources and supports members and their students need in the future to teach and learn effectively online. They survey also asked for opinions about what safety precautions need to be in place before students and staff can safely return to classrooms.
IFT constituency councils, made up of members from local unions all over the state, also met to discuss their online teaching and student support experiences and ways to make remote learning work better for students. The members expressed their fears about reopening too soon and the need for safety measures like social distancing, face masks and many other essential precautions in our schools and on college and university campuses.
Our union will consider all this member feedback as we work to develop our own set of reopening guidelines. IFT will also refer to recommendations set forth earlier in the spring by our national union, the American Federation of Teachers. In April, AFT released a 20-page, science-based report, “A Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities.”
“AFT’s guidelines are very helpful, but we want to go a step further and incorporate the specific needs of our members here in Illinois into a comprehensive set of recomendations,” said Russell. “Whether in-person, remotely, or under some sort of hybrid, education will continue in the fall and our union will be at the forefront of making that happen in a safe way that serves students and our members.”