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A tale from Ina Friedman, school secretary

PS 20, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
New York Teacher

I started with the Department of Education as a per diem on Dec. 16, 1986, so I’ve been with the DOE a heck of a long time. I’ll be 73 years old in March, and I’m still working.

I work 24/7 — my phone is always with me. Teachers who work in the building call or text me if they’re going to be out, and then I have to get a sub in. That’s been much harder this year because most of the subs I used to call were retired teachers, and they don’t want to come into the school building. So I’m relying on SubCentral, and it’s more of a hassle. If staff members are working remotely from home, we’re not hiring a sub.

Do I feel safe in my school building? The answer is yes. We’re all wearing masks. The building is being sanitized. What am I going to do at home? If I’m home, I’m talking to four walls and a dog. I would rather go into the building and be with people.

At school, I’ve developed close friendships with people on the staff, and we can still sit around and kibitz — 6 feet apart. I come in with a smile, and I say goodnight with a smile.

This year, I really don’t see the kids at all. They’re basically glued to the classroom. Hopefully in September we’ll be back, and the kids will be in, yelling and screaming and smiling and laughing without a mask on.

As told to reporter Rachel Nobel