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Teacher’s Day In Mexico Raises Fears About School Reopening

Many teachers and parents feel it is still not safe to reopen schools and return to in-person classes.

Mexicans celebrate Teacher’s Day every May 15, to recognize and honor teachers across all educational levels.

This year, the upcoming changes to teaching habits may diminish the celebration. After more than a year of online classes, teachers are on hold as Mexico’s government has announced the return to classrooms on May 24 in several states.

Many teachers have expressed their stress and anxiety on social media since the COVID-19 pandemic is still not under control. However, many of the teachers in the states that will reopen schools have already received the vaccine.

“We do not have a lot to celebrate this year,” said José María Ramos, an elementary school teacher. “The pandemic has delayed both teachers and students, though the government has not officially recognized it. We are talking that the event that began a year ago forced a total change in the way that schools used to function and the responsibilities of students, teachers, and parents.”

Children have not attended face-to-face classes for over a year and many teachers and parents still do not feel safe with the schools reopening. (Government of Mexico)

The states that could return to the classroom in the coming weeks include Baja California, Campeche, Sonora, Jalisco, Coahuila, Michoacán, and Veracruz. However, both students and teachers must follow strict sanitary standards so that schools remain a safe space for everyone.

“Today, Veracruz governor announced that we are going back to the classrooms, but, despite the vaccine and the sanitary measures, fear continues to exist. Though he did not give many details, he did give the date when we will return. From what little he explained, attendance will be voluntary, not mandatory, and the parents will have to sign waivers,” said Ramos, who lives in the state of Veracruz.

Before students and teachers return to classrooms, schools must comply with the following sanitary measures:

  • Guarantee the supply of water, soap, and hand sanitizers.
  • Take the temperatures of both teachers and students.
  • Disinfect backpacks and school supplies.
  • Ensure the safety of at-risk teachers.
  • Mandatory use of face masks.
  • Use a staggered system during opening and closing times as well as recesses.
  • Use an alternate attendance system if needed.
  • Use open spaces.
  • Suspend civil ceremonies.
  • Maintain social distancing between students and teachers.
  • Provide emotional support to students and teachers.
People consider studying from home safer than face-to-face class, even with its drawbacks. (Green Chameleon/Unsplash)

Despite the plan presented by the Ministry of Public Education in March, many parents have expressed their concern on social media.

“I do not approve the reopening of schools. I rather that my son spend three additional years here in the house than the chance of him getting sick and infecting the rest of us. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry,” said Paulina Robles, who has her son enrolled in the Niños Héroes Elementary School in the city of Veracruz.

If a school detects a possible COVID-19 case on its campus, it will have to close its doors for at least 15 days. Furthermore, the illness will be considered an insurable work risk under the Social Security institutions.

“I will wait and see for them [the government authorities] to do their tests and how is the school reopening going. However, I doubt that I will take my son there,” said Robles. “I talked it over with my husband, and we both agree on this. And just like me, there are several moms in my neighborhood that share my idea.”

According to official figures, 2.6 million people have been infected in Mexico, with more than 218,000 registered deaths due to the virus. Most who become ill with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without any special treatment.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Kristen Butler)

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