Teachers, Students Express Anxiety Over Spring Reopening School Buildings


Third floor of Flowers on an SAT day

Virginia Bates

Reopening School in March

 The district COVID Compliance Committee addressed some of their hopes and fears when it comes to reopening schools, practically when it comes to Charles Herbert Flowers High School. Teachers are fearful, unsettle, stressed about the reopening plan.
On February 10, 2021, teachers joined a district COVID Compliance Committee Meeting on zoom. Also, teachers had to go up to the school and pick up Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), in preparation for reopening. The committee reviewed the plan for potential reopening and the plans that are being put in place to ensure that there is safety for all.
For returning students, it is known that the high school has certain conditions. Students had to be moved from classes because of mold issues in the school.
Prince George’s County Public Schools requested that ATI, Inc., conduct a proactive indoor air quality (IAQ) screening at Charles H. Flowers High School. The IAQ screening was conducted on May 18, 2019. Its key findings are enclosed in the Executive Summary, and the official laboratory report for total fungal spore trap sampling is enclosed in Appendix A. (The full report can be found on Prince George’s County, Indoor Air Quality Program: Indoor Air Quality Screening, Charles H. Flowers High School)
Even though the report was from May 2019, the air quality in the building has only gotten worse. With these issues, there is no detailed evidence that these problems have been abated.

Fears of Classrooms

With this in mind some of the classes at Flowers, including health teacher Traci Allen,  class don’t have windows.
In the ROTC hallway, Ms. Traci Allen was heading to her classroom, with two masks on, due to the different strain of COVID currently prevalent.

“When I crossed that threshold, I almost suffocated” Ms. Allen reported to her first period students.

The ventilation in that part of the building is horrible. When wearing a mask yet alone two in that part of the building is barely survivable. Next to that, the classrooms are even worse because there are no windows.

Another issue about our school is regarding our bathrooms. Most bathrooms don’t have paper towels or any soap to cleanse. Questions that came up about sanitizing throughout the day. Every night the plan is that the custodian team will go through and disinfect the whole building, but there are kids that go in and out of the classrooms.
What is the procedure for sanitizing each desk before someone sits in it? What is the procedure if someone comes into school with a common cold? Where are people going if they have the probability of having COVID? 
Principal Dr. Gorman Brown informed there will be no more than 15 in a classroom, but students with the last name starting with A-J would have the option to attend school Mondays and Tuesdays, and students with the last name starting with K-Z would attend on Thursdays and Fridays, so what if a group of students is more than 15? What is going to happen with the extra students that came to school that day?
Certain teachers have over 30 students enrolled in their class, so how are they supposed to be six-feet apart in classrooms? How many kids are planning to come back to school?
Another issue that came up in the meeting was the lunch schedule. With no plan for that yet the school does have a proposal for breakfast. The proposal was to have the cafeteria workers stand at the main and bus door with food so the student can pick up their breakfast and go straight to their classrooms. The student eats their breakfast in class with their mask off, however, they did not state if there would any partitions in the classrooms at that time.

“There were a lot of questions that did not get answered as far as the reopening situation is concerned,” Ms. Allen said to her class. “A lot of people are very scared, a lot of teachers are very scared.” 

There are immature students in the building that could be disobedient and not comply with the rules and regulations that are set. Certain students don’t like to follow directions even before the pandemic. Some students will not wear their masks correctly.
How do you control the students? What do we do with those students who don’t take things seriously? 

What is the point?

A lot of students and teachers don’t understand why we have to go back to school in March. If we go then we only have about two months left and those two months are going to be students and teachers just adjusting back to in-person learning.
We are starting all over again basically, with going to class and instructing with other peers. It takes weeks for people to adjust and by the time the school gets used to the new style again, the school year is already over.

“I would love to come back to school,” Ms. Allen said “but, I don’t want to put my life at risk either” 

There are a lot of things that people are scared of and there are fears around going back into the building. Nevertheless, there are people that are fighting for the school’s safety. Principal, Dr. Gorman Brown is being very transparent with teachers and staff about what is going on as far as the county’s CEO Monica Goldson and other leaders making decisions. He is very aware of the specific challenges that the school faces.
He and others along with him are advocating, for not only the teachers but for students.
Despite the Governor saying we need to open up schools, he is not giving schools the money and resources such as hand sanitizer and air filtration systems in classrooms to keep us safe.
One of the hopes is knowing that people are fighting for our safe return. That some teachers coming out of the meeting was people fighting regardless of the politics. People fighting for the safety of teachers and students inside of Charles Herbert Flowers High School.