Over the past several months, teachers went from teaching face-to-face to now teaching remotely, and with the upcoming school year this hasn’t changed, schools are now moving onto the online platform. Two private school teachers, who agreed to talk under anonymity, voiced out their concerns on why schools can’t open but other establishments can.
Many seems to agree with their opinions as an online petition under change.org (https://www.change.org/p/covid-19-task-force-of-the-cnmi-let-kids-learn-let-adults-work-lift-the-restrictions) calling for a return to face-to-face learning is gaining steam.
Jane (not her real name) said that the reason for the petition was to give the community a voice to show how remote learning can not only affect the parents, but also how it can affect the students, who might not have to resources to participate online, as well as, how it doesn’t show “consistency where other businesses are given freedom to operate.”
Jane said that the school she teaches at was given strict guidelines to reopen and have inspections on top of that. “We were following strict guidelines where businesses are not being inspected nor have a set of guidelines to reopen. As an educator it is beyond frustrating we have been working our buts off since last March to keep children learning,” said Jane. She added that with the assumption that they will be back on school campus, gearing up for the upcoming school year, only to be told that they will be going back to remotely learning has been frustrating.
“We’ve spent masses of money to alter our campuses and buy safety equipment from a developmental point of view our students are being deprived, especially the younger students who need face-to-face gain language and motor skills,” said Jane. She added that even child development studies back how the lack of face-to-face will put them at a disadvantage, and that parents do not have the ability to facilitate learning while working.
“After days out of school from Super Typhoon Yutu and even Typhoon Soudelor we are creating a generation of children that are not educated to standards, children also need their peers to learn and to develop social and emotional skills,” Jane added. With a computer screen, it does not create a bond with others or make connections that are important to their mental health.
“All of our hard work the first week is being destroyed. As a parent, we need to be able to work and give back to our economy, to be able to pay bills. We are only have parenting and half working as we try to juggle both,” said Jane.
Another private school teacher, Ben (not his real name), says that government entities never got back to their request to inspect schools back in May, but only two weeks ago before they were going to open, that’s when they got inspected. “After successful inspections and given the green light by the Governor’s Office and COVID-19 Task Force, the Child Care Licensing Program allowed kids to return to private school, but refused students under the age of 3, which makes up a substantial percent of the population. There was no real reasoning or scientific logic behind this decision,” said Ben.
Ben added that with the latest executive order, private schools continue to be postponed until a tentative opening on Sept. 8. He says that while schools are encouraged to go online, there are still many schools who have younger populations which can make online education “nearly impossible,” without parents staying home and working individually with their children.
“Private schools rely on collecting tuition as its sole source of income but these orders make running these schools financially more difficult. Bars, churches, businesses, gyms, and students with special needs are still permitted to meet (with less regulation) but private schools are not,” said Ben.
As of Aug. 27, a total of 181 community members have signed the petition, they need at least 200 to achieve their goal.
In the petition, CNMI residents plead to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force to lift restrictions on remote learning.
“COVID-19 is worldwide and cannot be completely eliminated. We inevitably will see cases in the CNMI in the coming months. Currently, we do not have widespread infection. The processes in place over the past weeks have worked. Please trust us as members of the community to stay the course. We will not reach zero, but we can keep our curve flat,” said the petition.