YORK — Foggers, UV lights, hand sanitizer; these will likely be standard in many Nebraska school districts to keep students healthy and safe.
But what about teachers?
“We need all students to learn and all teachers to teach in a safe environment,” said Jenni Benson, President of the Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) – a union representing 28,000 public school teachers and other education professionals across Nebraska. “We want to be sure all of our students are being taken care of, but we need to also be good employers.”
“I’m not worried about, what about the teachers – are we going to get lost in the shuffle?” said Jane Brogan, York High School social studies teacher. “They’re taking all of us into consideration by not rushing into any decisions.”
York Public Schools Superintendent Mitch Bartholomew said the district has been considering the needs of their staff. “One of our priorities is our teacher safety; what can we do for our staff that has underlying conditions?”
The district’s staff – underlying conditions or no – are playing a role in developing the YPS Return to School Blueprint. “Our plan is to reach out to all staff and talk about any accommodations needed for the school year,” Bartholomew said. “We’ll need to take all those things into consideration.” Another meeting is scheduled for next week to further discuss the roles teachers will play while educating during the pandemic. The York Education Association has already met, having an open conversation about the effects of COVID-19. “It was an opportunity to discuss problem areas and issues – what this pandemic has created and will create,” Bartholomew said.
Pre-corona and beyond, Brogan said “I think that when you’re talking about student concerns, you’re talking about teacher concerns.”
Monday, following a meeting with state leaders, NSEA is releasing guidelines outlining everyone’s safe return to school, including, Benson said, “guiding principles as to what is learning and what is safety. We have to come out with our very best recommendations and listening to things that are being said.”
Bartholomew said he has thus far received good feedback from YPS educators. “The teachers have been involved in it [Blueprint development] and have expressed their appreciation, and that we’re taking both their students’ and their own safety into consideration.”
The proverbial boots on the ground are essential in creating back-to-school plans, Benson said. “You need educators’ voices and expertise in the decision-making process,” Benson said. Bartholomew said at YPS there will be collaboration throughout the school. “Administrators are supposed to lead, but teachers are also a huge part of our leadership.”
Watch the NSEA Facebook Live broadcast Monday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/events/271159657326874/