'It just doesn't feel safe:' U.S. parents, teachers worry about reopening schools

Sharon Bernstein
·2 min read
Empty school buses are seen in parking lot amid global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Houston, Texas
Empty school buses are seen in parking lot amid global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Houston, Texas

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) - Brenda Del Hierro was not so thrilled with distance learning when her kids were sent home in March to when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, yet the Los Angeles mom said she was not convinced it would be safe to send them back to the classroom this fall.

Del Hierro said she backs a call by teachers unions in Los Angeles and nationwide to hold off re-opening schools until the latest intense surge of coronavirus cases fades and plans are in place to safely reopen.

Groups representing U.S. doctors, teachers and top school officials on Friday pushed back against pressure from President Donald Trump to fully reopen U.S. schools, saying science must guide the decisions.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, where Del Hierro's children are enrolled, has not yet decided whether in-person instruction will resume when school starts next month.

The teachers union in the nation's second-largest school district on Friday recommended keeping school campuses closed when the semester begins on Aug. 18.

Simply calling for physical distancing and asking children and teachers to wear masks will not be enough, said Del Hierro. Her eight-year-old son, for example, complains that it is difficult to breathe through a mask, and tends to take his off.

She said she is also worried that if something upsetting happens at her son's school in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, teachers will not be able to properly console children from six feet away.

"I wish they would just focus on distance learning and making it better," said the stay-at-home mom, 33.

Jennifer McAfee, who teaches English at Dotson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes, said with just six weeks left before the start of school, there is too little time and too few resources to plan a safe re-opening.

Even something as simple as a ride on the school bus needs to be reimagined, she said, to make sure children obey distancing and mask guidelines.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by David Gregorio)