Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn
As we approach a year of lockdowns and serious control measures as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic there have been many sacrifices that have been made by all parts of society. As we have come to understand this disease, we are better armed to deal with it going forward and we are now at a place where we need to open up businesses, schools, etc. and move forward with life. Even with the vaccines that have been produced, we are not going to get to zero cases and unfortunately, there will be deaths associated with this disease. However, we must move forward in our way of life and stop being paralyzed by this disease. I realize that there is a lot of fear that has been birthed in the hearts of many people, mainly as a result of the media and its misinformation campaign. One of the hardest hit groups, not of catching the disease, but being hurt by the shutdowns caused by it, has been our young people and the dispensation of their education. I submit to you that 100% remote learning is completely foolish and those that believe that it is good are not thinking of what’s best for our young people and aren’t flowing with much logic!
As I’ve shared previously, young people in high school have lost, essentially, a year and a half of their high school experience as a result of what has occurred during this pandemic, again much of which, I believe, is a result of fear and not scientific fact! Of those young people impacted, the students of the Rochester City School District (RCSD) have suffered the most. Initially, students in the RCSD weren’t going back to in-person classes until the fall of 2021! This was ludicrous and was not born out by logic nor science. Much credit goes to the Superintendent of the RCSD for reversing course and stating that young people will return to in-person classes in February. After we got that bit of good news, we heard from the Rochester teacher’s union to throw water on getting these students back to class. They stated that until teachers have been vaccinated, they don’t want to return to the classroom. Nevermind the fact that teachers in the suburbs and private schools have long since returned to the classrooms and they are doing pretty well…and they haven’t all been vaccinated!
I am calling on Superintendent Myers-Smalls to push back (hard) against the teacher’s union and their non-student first policies! We have been in this pandemic fight for almost a year and we have the arsenal to protect teachers and students in an in-person environment. The young people of Rochester have suffered way too much already and indeed have moved even further behind their suburban and private school counterparts. We cannot allow a selfish request from the teacher’s union to further hinder these young people’s education! Those teachers that are too frightened to return to school should be allowed to teach online to students that don’t want to return to school in-person. My guess is that there are many teachers, students, parents, staff, etc., that are ready for the young people of Rochester to return to school, in-person; and we need to let them!
There is a solution that can be employed to help ensure that the concerned teachers (if there truly are many) are kept safe. They just need to look to their counterparts in other districts and in the private sector to learn what they are doing. Whatever they are doing, work to execute that. It is time for the children of the RCSD to get back to in-person classes. We mustn’t let fear continue to paralyze us, we have to wake up and move forward. Otherwise, we risk getting to a place of no return!
Rev. Michael is senior pastor of New Wineskin Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org