Teachers express concern over in-person learning protocols, safety

Teachers in Pinal County are speaking out and questioning whether or not they will be returning to work when in-person learning begins.

The teachers I spoke with became emotional on my call to them, at the thought of returning to school with full classrooms. Many say they are worried for themselves, their family and their students.

"It's hard to take and I feel the burden extremely hard."

Dr. Dave Nelson is an AP psychology teacher at Combs High School. He has been teaching for 36 years, but is now considering cutting his career short.

"On Monday, I have a decision to make. Do I risk my health, my wife's health to meet the needs of the masses, the mob, or do I protect me and mine?" said Nelson after the J.O. Combs Unified School District Governing Board voted 3 to 2 to resume in-person instruction starting August 17, even though the district says they were presented with a recommendation to delay school until October 6.

"This was after they discussed they don't even have all of the equipment to do the cleaning necessary. They decided to disregard the metrics."

And Nelson is not alone. A number of other teachers in the district feel they are being put in harm's way.

"I have never been more disappointed in the school governing board," said Tiffanie Nelson.

"My choice is to expose myself to 100 or more kids everyday and risk getting sick or quit my job," said Barbara Rogers, a teacher.

The school district says they will still be offering their option for virtual learning, but this new in-person learning was provided for families who feel their children must attend school in person to properly thrive.

For those that attend school, the district says they have developed a pandemic response plan, which includes guidelines to social distance in the classroom and daily temperature checks.

"You can't socially distance 30 students in a 30 x 30 classroom," said Carlson.

And teachers are concerned. If those protocols will be enough to ensure their safety, as well as their students.

On August 11, the teachers association will hold a meeting to discuss what actions, if any, they can take.

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