Teachers Express Safety Concerns About Returning to Classrooms

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As school districts figure out how teachers and students can safely return to the classroom, some teachers say they’re not comfortable going back to class.

“There are too many safety concerns and too many logistical concerns that employees don’t feel like they can be a part of a safe environment,” Loudoun Education Association Vice President Sandy Sullivan said.

“What we’re basically saying to folks is, well, you’re just going to take your risk here, we’re going to see how things work out,” Montgomery County Education Association President Christopher Lloyd said.

The Montgomery County Education Association has gone back and forth with the district over a number of safety concerns like access to PPE and cleaning supplies, how quickly kids should return to school, and whether vulnerable teachers will have a choice to return.

“Frankly, we feel like right now we’re receiving a lot of mixed messages,” Lloyd said.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

Montgomery County Public Schools produced a video in an attempt to clear things up, vowing that there will be enough masks and that vulnerable staffers will have their needs addressed.

“It’s incumbent on us to listen; it’s also incumbent upon us to create plans, work on them, test them, and then go back and revise them,” Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith. “That’s what will move us forward.”

Plans for the fall are still being finalized in the district, but speaking to the Washington Informer Friday, Washington Teachers Union President Elizabeth Davis said distance learning is the safest option. Sixty percent of her members have underlying health conditions.

“I don’t think that they should have to be put into a position where they would need to make a decision about whether or not to protect the safety of their families, themselves in order to maintain their jobs,” she said.

Lloyd said the only way to give teachers peace of mind is making it safe.

“So we need to have conversations as a system, we need to have conversations with the community, about what the resources are that we need,” he said.

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