School Reopening Pits Parents Against Teachers: “Is There a Word Beyond ‘Frustrating’?”

Kris Maher and Jennifer Calfas:

Patrick Cozzens had never spoken up at a school board meeting until he stood in front of a crowd of angry parents earlier this month to read a statement his 16-year-old daughter helped him to write.

“I’ve watched her go from a child that has loved school, thrived at school her entire life, to one now, using her own words, who just doesn’t care anymore,” he said, his voice breaking. “What are you focused on? Get our children back!”

Dozens of parents who live in the affluent community outside Pittsburgh erupted in applause, and the president of the school board rapped his gavel for order. Other parents, some via Zoom, and at least one teacher opposed a plan introduced by the superintendent to return the town’s 5,300 students to classrooms full-time in March, up from two days a week at most currently.

“The thought of returning to a full in-person day amid a global pandemic is so overwhelming that it could honestly bring me to tears,” said Emily Rindels, a fifth grade teacher in Mt. Lebanon, who teaches about half of her students at a time in the classroom, under the district’s hybrid model.