A Dying Teacher, Worrying Over Students to His Last Breaths - The New York Times

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Like the rest of the country, the death of a favorite educator in Houston has deepened teachers' fear and conflict about teaching in person during the pandemic.

Before Thanksgiving, Erick Ortiz was lying in a hospital bed, breathing hard. He couldn't see his family, so he texted his wife worried about his high school chemistry students: "Did they assign a group for my course?"

Four days later, he was put on a ventilator. He will never recover.

Ortiz died last month after testing positive for the coronavirus, which caused his family and colleagues to be hit hard at Charles H. Milby High School, the poorest neighborhood in Houston One of the services, and caused the city’s educators to worry about teaching in person during the pandemic.

Maria Ortiz, Mr. Ortiz’s widow, said: “I don’t want this to happen again. I have to drop out of school in 2019. They must also be protected.”

There is no evidence that the rate of death of teachers is higher than that of people in other industries, and there is no evidence that the coronavirus is spreading faster in schools than in the entire community, especially in areas where hygiene precautions are strictly observed. Federal researchers

"In places where safety is fully valued, "there is very little evidence that schools have made a meaningful contribution to increasing community transmission."

However, through the contact with children and families, the special role of teachers in the community, and the attention of educators to the safety of in-person teaching, the loss is particularly painful and devastating in many places.

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said: “Some educators have died for this and died as a result.” The association represents 9,000 seniors. "When this happens, it makes it more difficult to persuade others to move on."

Although there are no exact data on how many of the country’s 3.5 million teachers died during the pandemic, the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the United States, said it knows about 530 schools that lost their lives on Covid-19 last time. Employee year.

The Houston Independent School District, like many people across the country, said it has taken the steps recommended by public health officials, including the requirement to wear a mask, social distancing and plexiglass barriers in classrooms. But many educators say that these rules are not strictly enforced and that preventive measures are used inadequately or unevenly.

Mr. Domenek said that the school director found himself trying to strike a balance between the safety of teachers and the need for face-to-face learning to deal with many inequalities in distance education. He said: “They are always attacked by their teachers. They think they are forced into a situation that they think is unsafe, while the parents want their children to get in and out.”

Educators who have lost their lives due to the virus in recent weeks include

In Grand Prairie, Texas, each other died within a few hours; an art teacher and his student in Fayetteville, North Carolina

At the memorial outside the school; there is also a physical education teacher and coach in Lincoln County, North Carolina, his family

Turn off the TV in his ward, trying to distract him.

In most parts of the United States, the lack of contact tracking and the rapid spread of the virus in most parts of the United States in recent months have made it almost impossible to know where most teachers contracted the virus. But their deaths still exacerbated the community's debate about school safety.

The death of Patrick Key, an elementary school teacher in Powder Springs, Georgia,

On Christmas morning,

Stop studying in person in the Cobb County School District. Rear

, More than a hundred educators showed up to protest before the school committee meeting.

Two board members and the director refused

To commemorate Mr. Key, Key’s obituary requires people to buy and wear masks instead of sending flowers to the funeral.

In Montgomery, Alabama, the deaths of at least four school employees who are battling the virus have increased alarm. Recently

. Monday, Director

Montgomery schools will be converted to remote classes, and it is likely that only 4,500 employees in the area can use the vaccine before in-person teaching can resume.

Some states have

, But not all. Even where the teachers are at the top, the officials

Vaccinate everyone who works in school. Even then, many teachers

About going back to the classroom, obviously


The death of Mr. Ortiz in December has an uplifting effect on educators in Houston. In the second week, teachers from about 50 schools in Harris County

A safer learning environment is required during the pandemic.

Traci Latson, a 50-year-old teacher at Meyerland's High School of Performing and Visual Arts, said: "He could have been me." He described his own teaching in Houston as "Russian Roulette". She said that the death of Mr. Ortiz prompted her to straighten out her will and financial situation.

Ms. Ratson said: "I have classes on campus every day. I'm not sure if this is my last day."

According to Texas law, unlike many northern states, teachers and their unions lack collective bargaining power. In many northern states, some teachers and their unions have

Because of concerns about their safety. In Chicago,

Has been upgraded to the point where the area tells parents not to send their children to school on Wednesday because the teacher

Face it personally and possibly strike.

Public health experts have largely agreed that in the case of low community transmission rates, schools, especially elementary schools, are unlikely to seed the virus's transmission route, provided that these schools adopt mitigation strategies. This idea was supported again on Tuesday.

It inspected 17 schools in rural Wisconsin. They often wear masks; it found that there were 191 infections among staff and students during the fall, of which 7 were spread in schools.

In Houston, just as the state required all school districts in Texas to offer in-person teaching options last fall, the school system has mandatory requirements and requires six feet of social distance.

. A regional spokesperson said that it also sets up daily temperature checks at the school entrance, uses plexiglass partitions in classrooms, and conducts nasal swab tests on campus, although some teachers question the universality of this practice.

One teacher provided pictures that she thought there were insufficient dividers in the classroom-there were two, one for her desk and the other to move between student desks-while others said that despite the area restrictions , But their school does not have a policy of routine testing. They know that there are coronavirus cases and even deaths in their families, but they still come to the school with symptoms anyway.

The Houston School District is the seventh university district in the United States, with approximately 200,000 students and more than 27,000 employees. As of Monday,

During the pandemic, 1,199 employees were included, or about 4% of employees.

His wife said that Ortiz is a three-year-old father, now 52, ​​suffering from diabetes. He remained vigilant about returning to the classroom. He is a science lover, studied biology during college, worked in a laboratory, and then became a high school teacher in 1997, a career change inspired by his wife.

Ms. Ortiz said: “I like him a little bit because I like it, and he likes it in the end.”

Her husband wears a plastic mask and mask after chemistry class.

. Ms. Ortiz said she believed that later that month, he was infected with the virus when he supervised the SAT for five hours in a classroom with about 20 students. She recalled how some students coughed during the exam he mentioned.

She said that about a week later, he returned home and felt bad weather and tested positive for the virus. For the next week, he stayed behind the closed bedroom door, in a serious condition, with a fever of 104 degrees, and a growing cough. She said that early on November 16, Ms. Ortiz went to check on him and found that he could not speak. She called an ambulance.

"They didn't even tell me what his oxygen was. They just said it was really low and we needed to take him to the hospital." She recalled. "He never came out."

The Houston school system said in an email, “It’s very sad to hear that one of our beloved Milby High School teachers has passed away,” but the area “still remains committed to providing our students with high-quality education while ensuring that The health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff meet the highest standards."

For Ms. Ortiz and her children, the loss was catastrophic. "Dad is everything to them," she said. She also received some letters from her husband’s former students, including letters to the Yiguan. One student wrote: "He is one of the most caring and hardworking people I have ever met."

Her grief and anger are mixed because she believes that the welfare of her husband and colleagues is not given priority. Ms. Ortiz said: "During this pandemic, teachers are also educating children on the front lines, trying to get them ahead." "And they are not respected."

Alain Delaquérière (Alain Delaquérière)

Contributed research.

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