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In testimony before the Senate Education Committee, he also said that opening schools without a comprehensive plan or proper resources will likely cause a new spike in COVID-19 cases
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HARRISBURG, PA (May 11, 2020) – Pennsylvania educators and support professionals are committed to providing their students with the support and resources they need to continue learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSEA President Rich Askey testified before the Senate Education Committee today.
In his testimony, Askey shared stories from PSEA members to illustrate the successes and challenges of the continuity of education programs now under way in school districts across the commonwealth.
“I’m proud of how our educators and support professionals have responded during this crisis,” Askey said. “They are doing what they always do — putting their students first.”
Askey shared the story of Nancy, an educator in the Greater Johnstown School District, where nearly half of all students lack access to the internet or a digital device. Nancy has gone above and beyond to get printed instructional packets and other supplies into the hands of district students who are chronically, episodically, or transitionally homeless.
Askey also highlighted the story of Dave, an elementary school teacher in the West Shore School District. Dave goes the extra mile — literally — when he can’t connect with a student. In some cases, he even drives to a student’s home to bring a basket of food or other materials and check in with the student from a safe distance.
Askey told senators that many educators are deeply concerned about their students’ wellbeing during the unprecedented statewide school closure.
“The very kids who need us the most right now are the hardest to reach in this environment,” Askey said. “We are worried about our students all the time. It’s not something we turn off at night when we lay our heads down. There are very real social, emotional and mental impacts on students and educators from this crisis — and it is important we all recognize the effects that will have now and into the future.”
While PSEA members are eager to get back into the classroom this fall, Askey said that the state and districts need to approach the reopening of schools in an informed way that ensures the health and safety of students and staff.
“For schools to physically open safely, it will require social distancing, greater sanitization of classrooms, buildings and buses, and more health professionals in our schools, like nurses, counselors, and school social workers,” Askey said. “There is a lot we still don’t know about this disease. But we do know that opening schools without a comprehensive plan or proper resources will likely cause a new spike in COVID-19 cases, forcing some to close again. None of us want that.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.