‘It’s just a day-to-day business right now:’ California teacher on back-to-school

The Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to infect a substantial number of children, giving many parents and teachers cause for concern. One of those teachers is Juana Rodarte. She teaches seventh grade at La Merced Intermediate School located in Montebello, Calif. The 22-year teaching veteran spoke openly about her fears and hopes about the new school year amid the COVID-19 surge.

“I really do hope that every student that can get vaccinated does get vaccinated,” Rodarte told Yahoo Finance.

“The first thing I did when the vaccine was available to teachers, when I got my letter, I went and got it. It was a priority because I don’t want to be bringing home [the virus] to my family and friends,” she said.

Montebello Unified School District’s COVID-19 mitigation policy includes students being masked in class and while riding the school bus. The only exception comes when students are eating lunch. Rodarte tells Yahoo Finance that she is concerned about keeping her classroom safely and adequately ventilated despite the district’s policies.

“They’re doing their best, but I gotta tell you, I work at a school where our air conditioning system … when we return back from summer, it’s not functioning. I’ve been at back to school nights, and I’m drenched in sweat and parents are sweating with me,” she said.

“Just this week I’ve been there and the AC is not working and I’m like, ‘Wow, we have no windows, one door, and we’re all going to be wearing masks indoors.’ This is going to be very interesting. We’re going to try. We’re really going to try, but wow, I don’t know how it’s going to go,” she said.

Joy Harrison instructs her second graders as California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits the classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. The governor announced that California will require its 320,000 teachers and school employees to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)

COVID-19 is not the only challenge that teachers have to face — learning loss has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the district is facing teacher shortages. Rodarte says that she often worries that no one would be able to fill in if she or one of her fellow teachers becomes ill.

“Even when we’re online, it was day by day too, because we didn’t know if I was the one [who] was going to get sick and I had to call in and ask for help, for somebody could take over a classroom or whatnot. So it’s going to be very tough and honestly, it’s just a day-to-day business right now,” she said.

Rodarte is eager to be back in the classroom. “It is important to be in a physical classroom because I can ensure that my students, while they’re there, they’re learning, they’re thinking they’re processing because I’m making sure. Online, just the computer alone is a distraction for them.Sure they could connect to Zoom, but at the same time they’re watching their videos or gaming … I don’t know if they’re asleep or if they’re working or not,” Rodarte added.

“But when they’re physically in my classroom … I could see that productivity happening in my classroom, whereas online, that was a whole different story.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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