We’re going on two years now, and the coronavirus crisis is still raging. The crises that it spawned are still raging as well, continuing to impact our communities, our families, and our schools.  

Omicron has brought a wave of cases to our school communities, with many schools’ infecti

on rates in double digits.  

We don’t know what new variant of this virus will come upon us next, but this is what we do know.  

When we put in place layered mitigation strategies—consistent testing, vaccinations, proper ventilation, cleaning, hand washing, and masking—we know we can stem the tide of infections.

With all these mitigation strategies in place—we can’t pick and choose—we can reduce exposures, reduce infections, and keep students learning in person. Without them, learning is disrupted as people get sick or need to quarantine after exposure, or as staff shortages push classrooms or entire schools to temporarily turn to remote learning.

For too long, these mitigation strategies, including rigorous testing programs—were too costly, especially for already under-resourced districts. When we told that to President Biden, he listened. And now he’s delivering, just as he has for us in the past.
Yesterday, he and his Administration announced new tools to help get COVID-19 tests into our schools. The federal government will be distributing 10 million tests per month to schools and setting up “surge” testing sites in communities with high transmission.  

Combined with the resources we fought for in the American Rescue Plan, every school—and I do mean every school—can put in place these layered mitigation strategies. But not all states or districts are accessing the funds and putting them to use.  

Unfortunately, some politicians—too many of them—are using the pandemic for their political gain. They spread misinformation, make decisions unilaterally, or refuse the help they’re offered, putting our children and our families at risk.  

It is only by working together, by having educators of every type at the table with parents, administrators, and the district, that communities can set the policies, procedures, and plans that make sense for their unique circumstances.

If they won’t let us in the room to be at the table, we’ll bang on the door until they listen. And we’ll hold them accountable for their words and their actions.

We have to bargain collectively where we can and collaborate in other ways, too. We have to communicate. And, we need to care—care for each other out of respect, and care for our educators.

Educators have put their lives on the line in many cases. We have dedicated ourselves to educating America’s students, and that dedication is nothing less than heroic. We have pushed through fear and exhaustion. We have adapted to online teaching and the reopening of school buildings. We’ve taught 80 kids in a class and skipped lunch because we’re covering for a colleague.  

One educator I talked to said it felt like they are drinking from a fire hose—all day, every day, for months on end.  
We need to care for educators, because if we don’t, we’re going to have an even bigger crisis on our hands.

No one understands the importance of learning in person more than educators. We know it’s the best and safest place for students. It’s the best place for them to learn.  It’s the best place for us to teach and nurture our students.

As a science teacher for more than 30 years, I have said from the very beginning that we need to listen to the experts and bring together educators, parents, and students to talk about how we can keep everyone safe and keep our students learning in person.

So let’s work collaboratively with everyone at the table to keep students safe and learning through these challenging times.   

In solidarity,

Becky Pringle
President
National Education Association
P.S. 10 million COVID tests per month for schools and surge testing sites are just part of what the White House announced yesterday. Read more about how the Biden Administration is helping schools with COVID testing at whitehouse.gov

And for more details, visit NEA’s COVID-19 testing in schools webpage.