My colleague Michelle Vail has been teaching with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools for 17 years and is an 8th grade science teacher as well as Athletic Director at Waddell Language Academy.
She’s currently battling COVID-19 which she contracted about a month ago.
Earlier this week Ms. Vail reached out to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education about her experience in hopes that it would inform the board’s decision making process on a potential school reopening in August.
I share that communication below with her permission:
I know that a board meeting is being held this evening regarding the opening of schools so I wanted to take a moment to share my concerns as an educator who has had COVID since June 1st. Please forgive that this is a little long and wordy but I have a lot to say.
First, I did everything right, just as we were being advised. I only went out for necessities. I wore a mask and gloves, socially distanced from others, washed my hands, and/or used hand sanitizer when necessary. However, in the last week of May I received some news that a friend of mine that I have known for 30+ years, parents were in a tragic car accident. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and her father was the primary caregiver. Unfortunately, he did not survive. I came to Ohio to help.
On June 1, we picked her mother up from the hospital. They scanned our foreheads as we entered fully protected and we waited in a secure area isolated. Three days later we discover they sent her home with COVID-19! In a matter of days, this virus took down a household of 5! Every single one of us exhibited different symptoms and only 2 of the 5 started with a fever. I had that terrible whooping cough, sore throat, and extreme weakness. The weakness was so bad that I could not wash my hair without taking a break because I was out of breath raising my arms over my head. The symptoms seemed to vary across the board, so if scanning staff/students/parents’ foreheads for fever is a proposed option for schools to open, it’s not a good one.
Three of the five have now tested negative for COVID. One was just tested today because he was the last to get it; he got it from us. Today he and I lost the nasal congestion we had been having but we also completely lost our sense of smell?! That goes along with our lack of taste. Unfortunately, I have had two positive tests, so I am still in isolation in Ohio. They have also been advised to quarantine with me. I also have a compromised immune system so that could be slowing down the process. Both Mecklenburg and Ohio Health Departments have contacted me and I asked ODH if I needed to isolate from the others in the house if they have already had it and he said there were a lot of variables because they know so little about this virus. However, since it was all within a month he “assumed” it should be okay, but they should self-quarantine and use extra precaution when going out. They just don’t know how long the antibodies will last. With Chicken Pox, they last a lifetime, with Mono six months, COVID??
Personally, I don’t feel safe going back into a building. I take care of my 79-year-old father. If I bring this home to him, I would kill him. I don’t know that I would survive if I were to get this a second time. Might I also point out that many staff members and parents would fall into the critical age range for COVID-19? Students may not be getting ill with COVID, but they could transmit the virus to others.
Has anyone thought about what this would look like in person? Students would not be able to hear the teacher through the mask if they are in the middle or back of the classroom and vice versa. Are we going to be provided headphones with mics? Will teachers be provided face shields and other personal protective gear so they can get closer to the students to answer questions and provide individualized instruction? Will the cafeterias, classrooms, hallways, libraries, and other common areas be marked for social distancing? Who will be expected to be monitoring this? Will classroom doors be expected to be closed and locked at all times? If so, will teachers be provided with wipes to clean the door handles? They will also need wipes for the light switches? How will restroom breaks expect to be managed at the elementary and middle school level? Will the water fountains be blocked off? Will there be sports? How will social distance and safety be maintained? Again, who will be expected to monitor this? Who will clean the equipment? What about PE/PE Equipment? Who will clean the playground equipment for elementary school? Will staff be provided with gloves for every time they have to open an interior/exterior door? These are just some of the questions that I have.
If you go with the 50% model, will teachers be recording the lessons that they do in person with the class? If so, will the equipment be provided or will we be expected to create something completely different? It would be extremely difficult to get through the entire curriculum with the 50% model and pass an EOG/EOC?
I wanted you to have some first-hand information from someone who WILL be on that frontline. I love what I do and I really did miss my students. I missed them terribly, so much that I would sacrifice seeing them in person to protect them and their families by doing remote learning. Remote learning was NOT a walk in the park! I know that myself and many of my colleagues were working much harder and longer hours than before. I had meetings with students for help as late as 8:30 PM! I never felt so exhausted before and I might have only walked 1200 steps the entire day!
I appreciate your time reading my message and hope that you take my thoughts and concerns into consideration.
Ms. Michelle Vail
8th Grade Science Teacher
E. E. Waddell Language Academy