‘Surrounded by toxicity:’ As Colorado schools reopen, pandemic-fueled politics overwhelm classrooms | VailDaily.com

‘Surrounded by toxicity:’ As Colorado schools reopen, pandemic-fueled politics overwhelm classrooms

The school year is starting off in turmoil as mask mandates in some districts divide families and educators

Erica Breunlin and Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
First-grade teacher Monica Moreno and Zayd Hernandez work on an assignment the first day of school at Homestake Peak School Monday in EagleVail. The district is requiring masks for all faculty and students.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

The faces of parents riled up by mask mandates in schools feels all too familiar to Mark Sass. It reminds him of the fury outside of schools during desegregation.

And at schools like Legacy High School in Broomfield, he says, all the rancor over the coronavirus is keeping teachers from what counts: figuring out how to keep kids safe.

“The political and community atmosphere right now is just toxic and we want to do everything we can to protect (students), to model for them how we should engage in discourse, and yet we’re just surrounded by toxicity,” said Sass, a part-time social studies teacher at Legacy High School and Teach Plus executive director for Colorado.

That “toxicity” has led to deputies posting up in schools, tense public meetings that draw thousands of comments, and a flood of written complaints that keep teachers and administrators scrambling to defend their protocols even as they remain in flux. All the extra turmoil is unsettling schools when they should be focused on students, some advocates say.

The drama comes as the delta variant threatens schools’ ability to stay open, raising the possibility that the pandemic will continue disrupting students’ lives this year.

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