All school employees are essential

When I was a new teacher, there was a student in my class that smelled. No, it was more than smelled. The other students were so repulsed by his hygiene they ignored him in the lunchroom and on the playground.

It was such a hard thing to watch.

One day the boy came to school with his arm wrapped in yellowed cloth. He told me his dog had bit him. Our school didn’t have a nurse. I checked his arm.

It was, indeed, a dog bite. It was red and oozing. He needed to see a doctor.

I called home but the phone had been disconnected. The emergency contact number just rang and rang. Knowing something had to be done, I went to the principal.

He said “Let’s do a home visit.”

The three of us were in the cab of his truck and it wasn’t long before we pulled up to the home. There were animals everywhere when I went up onto the porch. The aroma that assaulted us made us step back. The boy’s mother opened the door and 3 cats shot out.

It was quite an eye opening experience.

All kids are not on equal ground.

As the pandemic rages around us, I am seeing students lose ground as their parents lose jobs, leave homes, or can’t provide enough food. That student I cared for so many years ago? He had it so much better than many of the students today. He had a home and a mother. The home had running water. Even though he wasn’t the cleanest, we were able to overcome some of those problems while we worked with the family.

Today there is uncertainty. There is a degree of PTSD within our school climates. Teachers are trying to deliver flexible formats for in-person learning only to be told they will be going virtual for 3 weeks. After school programs still take in students, in some areas, to assist with virtual learning for the kids that have parents that need to work, don’t have computers, or can’t stay home.

That’s right. Even when some states roll back in person learning for safety, there are still groups of people who take on the heightened risk, even when the teachers are told to stay home.

These programs and people are NEVER noticed. They must make those well-being assessments every day. The students they see are the ones without safe havens to live in while their parents are off to work.

Today, I am shouting out to the essential school workers we tend to ignore. The people who watch the kids when the parents go to work. The people who provide the constant in situations that are so out of control. The enrichment or after school programs that are still taking students. They don’t want to be there and they know the risks. Don’t forget the custodial staff and kitchen workers.

For some, this job keeps food on their own tables. But for most, it is knowing that there are kids out there that have nowhere to go and have school districts that are giving them a place to learn on school computers, with WiFi, and breakfast and lunch.

Is it safe?

Not a chance.

I hope we think about this when the vaccines roll out. These are also essential workers. .

Remember them when you talk about school climates.

Thanks for listening.

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