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Texas teachers are ‘writing wills’ with schools set to reopen this fall

Published Jul 15th, 2020 2:08PM EDT
Coronavirus update
Image: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

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  • Coronavirus update: Texas schools are scheduled to reopen for in-person instruction next month despite the fact that the infection rate is still spiking throughout the state.
  • Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath says schools will lose their funding if they don’t offer in-person classes when school starts back up in the fall.
  • Texas reported a record 136 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, July 14th.

With nearly 11,000 confirmed novel coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday, Texas broke its own record for the third time in the last week. ICU beds are in short supply, hospitals are filling up, and there’s no end in sight to the rapid rise in cases, but Texas still plans to reopen schools this fall. Teachers are becoming increasingly concerned about putting themselves and their students at risk, and are starting to make their voices heard.

“Many of our teachers, staff, or their family members have underlying health conditions that would place them at severe risk of [contracting] COVID-19,” Executive Director of the United Educators Association Steven Poole wrote in a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott this Monday. “While parents are given options to send their children to school or stay home for virtual instruction, teachers and staff do not have that option.”

Back in June, before the infection rate exploded in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced that schools would open in August and would be required to provide in-person instruction five days a week. The Texas Tribune reported at the time that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath added that it would be “safe for Texas public school students, teachers and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall.”

Morath doubled down on July 7th  by announcing that public schools would have to reopen for in-person classes in August if they want to receive state funding, despite the fact that the virus was clearly out of control. This might have been the tipping point for some teachers, including Jessica Schwinn, who wrote on Twitter that “teachers are writing wills, getting medical power of attorney established, and taking out extra life insurance.”

Teachers, parents, lawmakers, and students are all in agreement that distance learning is an inferior way to teach and learn when compared to in-person instruction, but a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that around 1.5 million teachers are at higher risk of serious illness if they were to contract COVID-19, as CNN reports. Furthermore, children are not immune to catching or spreading the disease. New York saw dozens of children hospitalized with symptoms of a rare and serious illness after they were exposed to the novel coronavirus.

This is an incredibly complex issue, but there are already teachers becoming infected and dying at schools that were holding classes over the summer. Tens of thousands of teachers undoubtedly fall into the high-risk category in Texas, and they will be putting their lives on the line if schools do fully reopen next month.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.