'They have not done enough': Teachers, local unions concerned about students returning to school in the fall

Thursday, July 9, 2020
Teachers say officials 'haven't done enough' for students' return
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Here's how some parents and teachers are reacting to in-person versus online learning in the Fall.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Education Agency released it's recommendations for how school districts can reopen, but many parents and teachers are asking if its safe.

Leslie Almendarez, a mother of two, said she does not feel comfortable with her children returning to school and her daughter has been doing well with virtual learning. Almendarez said she hopes to continue that for at least the first semester of school.

"If we can't open at 100 percent capacity why should we force this on our children to school at 100 percent capacity knowing that it's not safe," Almendarez said. "I think the school needs to be the last to reopen."

Kristin Massey, a Houston ISD parent, does not agree. Massey believes in-person teacher instruction is more effective for students, not only for learning but also for mental health and other aspects.

"I think it's super important in all respects to get our kids in schools and our economy going again in as safe a manner as possible," Massey said.

She said she hopes school districts could hire additional staff to ensure certain areas are maintained and social distancing requirements are met.

According to the Texas Education Agency guidelines, in-person learning will be mandated for Texas schools, but it is recommended for districts to have an option for remote learning for parents to choose, at any point of the year.

Some health procedures will also be mandated across Texas. For example, all students, teachers, staff and visitors must go through a screening process before they walk on school grounds, and districts will have to follow Gov. Greg Abbott's orders such as wearing a mask for staff for any student over the age of 10.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers released a statement following the TEA announcement, noting the agency's leadership is "acting intentionally or recklessly with gross negligence by issuing guidance that does not take into account the fact that much of Texas is experiencing substantial community spread. Under such circumstances, the CDC recommends extended school dismissals. Our students and teachers deserve a state agency that places their safety above all else."

Stacey Pugh, an elementary school teacher, she said she does not feel that it is safe for students to return to school under the current TEA guidance.

"I am very hesitant as both a teacher and a parent," Pugh said. "Normally, I would have 20 plus kids in a classroom and it's hard to social distance when you have that many bodies in a classroom, a closed classroom inside of a building, 20 different households coming together so it's hard to follow those guidelines that are set forth by local and state authorities."

Pugh is also concerned about what will happen when the flu and COVID-19 are co-existing during flu season.

"I believe they have not done enough. I do not feel like it is safe for kids or anyone to return to school at this point." Pugh said. "In a few months we are coming up on flu season and to have to deal with flu season on top of COVID-19 it's not going to be enough and especially with the numbers steadily on the rise in Texas. I do not feel that it is safe. We need to wait until our numbers go down."

What parents and teachers can agree on is that students have fallen behind academically. Almendarez said she doesn't think it's fair to teachers or students that the TEA will resume STAAR testing in the upcoming school year.

Candis Houston, the president of Aldine's Federation of Teachers, agrees. Houston is also concerned that TEA distributing personal protective equipment to school districts will not be enough and districts will need additional funding to accommodate the guidelines.

"It's very important that they inform teachers what the expectations will look like," Houston said. "If they are going to do in-person and what it will look like online, because what it looked like in the Spring is not how it will look like in the Fall," Houston said.

She believes the responsibility will fall on teachers' shoulders. She said teachers are having to purchase their own PPE because school districts have not stated how much each teacher will receive. That is additional money out of their own pockets along with regular classroom supplies. Aldine Teachers' Union is collecting the supplies below for its members.

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting spray such as Lysol for the classroom
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Hand soap
  • Masks
  • Gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Laminating machine
  • Poster maker machine
  • School supplies
  • Clear backpacks
  • Pens/pencils
  • Crayons
  • Construction/manilla paper
  • Bulletin board materials

Any donations will be accepted. They can be sent to Aldine AFT at 1404 N. Sam Houston Parkway East, Suite 150, Houston 77032. Their email address is admin@aldineaft.org or you can reach them at (281) 847-3050.

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