We've been attempting to help teachers and other educators survive in the COVID-19 era. In Austin Texas, they have the right idea.
From the Statesman News Network:
About 850 Austin district teachers have pledged not to return to their campuses Monday when school buildings reopen for learning.
Concerned about the threat of the coronavirus to both their students and themselves, the educators said they remain committed to teaching their students, but will do so only in a virtual setting.
A little further down, the teachers explain their stance:
“I will not return on Monday nor do I plan to under any circumstances,” said Patrick Stinson, who teaches chemistry and integrated physics and chemistry at Northeast Early College High School. The district two weeks ago denied his request for accommodations, which he sought because his wife has a chronic heart condition. Stinson said he might lose his teaching position with his stance, but he said he is unwilling to expose his wife to risk by being in the classroom setting, where teachers already are exposed to a variety of germs, as school-age children often are carriers.
“Lots of us can’t afford to make this choice and have to do the wrong thing in order to eat,” he said.
Kiker Elementary librarian Sonya Butler notified campus families she’s leaving her position..
“I do not qualify for the accommodations or family leave and due to family situations and health, I am not returning to face to face learning,” she wrote in a letter to the school community. “I am truly heartbroken to leave a job I love so much and people I care about so deeply. However my family must come first and there, since I cannot work remotely, I must resign.”
The union in "right to work" Texas is acting tougher than the so-called mighty UFT:
Education Austin, the district’s largest union, remains in negotiations with district leaders on reopening plans, union President Ken Zarifis said. The pledge among the teachers who won’t return in person is not a strike, he said, because they will continue delivering instruction.
The group held a virtual news conference Thursday and reiterated educators’ concerns, calling again for changes to the reopening plan. The group cites a code of ethics that says educators will not knowingly or recklessly endanger the health of a student. Campus site-specific plans have been fluid, some changing weekly, which some educators say has contributed to the feeling that returning is unsafe.
A caravan of about 150 educators last weekend went to the district’s headquarters and taped to the building signs and messages: “COVID is airborne,” “Put our teachers and students first,” “How is face to face ‘best practices’ during a pandemic?”
I'm starting to think that the UFT may be the last teacher union in the country to still be in a concessionary frame of mind with their members. Up to all of you to change that by changing your union representation.
You can initiate change by standing up for yourself tomorrow if you are an in-person teacher. I read Sue Edelman's NY Post piece on a teacher not being able to get help when students refused to wear masks in the classroom.
It’s a teacher’s worst nightmare in the age of COVID-19.
Misbehaving high school students take off their masks in class and dare anyone to stop them, a South Bronx English teacher told The Post.
“The virus is not real. That’s why my parents are sending me,” one student declared, the teacher said. Many kids call the virus “fake.”
Some students clown around, removing their masks and pretending to cough or sneeze: “They think it’s funny.”
Others complain “I can’t breathe” because they say their masks are too tight.
Each class has around 9 to 11 students in person and then another 30 or so remotely.
Having to enforce safety rules such as face coverings and social distancing is a constant battle, the teacher said.
“I’m telling one, ‘Hey, put your mask on.’ I turn my head and boom, there’s another one maskless.”
The teacher, who simultaneously live-streams lessons to students learning remotely, said rowdy kids in the room cause constant disruptions.
“You have to mute your mike because you’re yelling at kids,” the teacher said. “Repeatedly this week, I had to stop the lesson because kids took off their masks.”
The interruptions rob the students, both in class and at home, who want to learn, he said.
As for DOE-NYC-UFT assurances that such offending students will be sent home:
“Nothing is happening. School safety is not removing them from the classroom,” he said.
Instead, administrators simply try to persuade students to comply.
In his school, students are assigned to the same classroom all day, while different subject teachers come and go. Kids may be left alone in the room for a minute or two during the transition.
“They get the freedom of that 90 seconds with no adult in the room, and they’re all over the place. They take their masks off. They’re close together having conversations. It’s a s–t show,” the teacher said.
Teens hate sitting at their desks all day, even for lunch when they are allowed to remove their masks for 20 minutes to eat. Some kids take longer than necessary on restroom visits. Or they just get up and leave the room, the teacher said.
DOE says it's three requests to put on a mask and then the student is sent home for remote only learning. I believe that is the UFT's position too.
I have a very simple solution if this mask rule is not adhered to: The students without masks are making you as a teacher ill. If they don't follow the rules, you are too sick to teach and you need to go home and will consider teaching remotely from there if you are up to it. As the Chicago arbitrator said in closing down school buildings in that city in a grievance decision:
On this record, it cannot be determined that each school building is safe and healthful to work in and in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, it is better to err on the side of allowing remote work, where feasible, since the extent of the inherently hazardous conditions presented by COVID-19 in each school building is unknown.
Protect your health first ladies and gentlemen and the rule-abiding students too; worry about the consequences for your job later.