WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Nancy Arteaga knows that everyone at Portland Public Schools—parents, students, and her fellow teachers—is wondering whether kids will return to classrooms next month. Should they go back to their desks and risk further spread of the COVID-19 virus?
She thinks it's the wrong question.
Arteaga teaches sixth grade language arts at Lane Middle School in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood of Southeast Portland. In March, she made a rapid transition to virtual teaching after Gov. Kate Brown closed schools statewide.
It was hardly the only upheaval Portland has experienced in that time: An uprising in the streets demands deep change to many institutions—and Arteaga believes that must include schools.
"What," she asks, "is there to go back to?"
Arteaga argues that, during the summer, the school district missed a crucial opportunity to address long-standing inequities that hold back schools with low-income students of color. She describes a system where teachers buy their own supplies, where the demands of students aren't heard, and where kids wonder whether the Black Lives Matter curriculum they're studying is something adults really believe.
In an interview with WW reporter Latisha Jensen, she describes her own reluctance to return—to the classroom and to the status quo. She also discusses the mixed messages she's receiving as August nears.