‘This just makes me really sad’: Colorado teacher shares doubts on returning to school amid pandemic

A Colorado elementary school teacher posted a video to social media sharing her thoughts and concerns over the prospect of returning to school in the midst of surges of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the country. 

“As a teacher, I feel the need to share what going back to school is going to look like. I’m not trying to pick a side of should we or shouldn’t we,” Katie O’Connor, a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado Springs, wrote on Facebook. My goal is to show people – especially parents – just what going back to in-person school will look like so you can make an informed decision for your family.“

In a video tour of her classroom, O’Connor explained the precautions she has been forced to take in preparation for a possible coronavirus outbreak at her school, including removing all personal items and only allowing one bookshelf to be used.

O’Connor added that students will most likely work on computers, as passing papers back and forth poses a serious risk for spreading the novel coronavirus. 

“This just makes me really sad,” she said.

In her video, O’Connor highlights another teacher’s classroom, which appears to be even emptier than her own, noting how desks are mandated to be at least 3 feet apart but are still much too close together. 

While she expressed that she wants nothing more than to go back to school, the current state of the pandemic hinders her ability to teach in a successful way, she said. 

“I want to go back, and I want to go back so bad,” O’Connor said in the video. “Because I love teaching. I miss my kids. I miss my classroom. But I can’t show them love that way.”

When she described how the children will have to remain seated all day, O’Connor said, “I know that’s not how kids learn. Kids need to move.”

Teachers in O’Connor’s school district were due to officially report on July 29, she wrote on Facebook, while students are to be welcomed back on Aug. 10.

One of the nation's largest teachers unions is authorizing its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures in the middle of the global pandemic.

The American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, issued a resolution on Tuesday saying it will support any local chapter that decides to strike over reopening plans.

In announcing the measure, the union's president blasted President Donald Trump for pressuring schools to reopen even as the virus continues to surge. Randi Weingarten called Trump's response “chaotic and catastrophic," saying it has left teachers afraid.

With millions of the nation’s parents anxious about their children’s safety in the fall — and their own work interruptions if they must stay home — Trump accused Democrats yet again of wanting to keep schools closed for election-year reasons rather than health concerns. And he issued a veiled threat to CDC officials over their reopening guidelines, tweeting, “I will be meeting with them!!!”

The Associated Press and Storyful contributed to this report.