Schools struggle to find agreement on meaning of ‘safe’ during COVID-19

Schools struggle to find agreement on meaning of ‘safe’ during COVID-19
The nation’s second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, announced it will support its members if they choose to strike over fears about coronavirus safety precautions.
The nation’s second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, announced it will support its members if they choose to strike over fears about coronavirus safety precautions.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The nation’s second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, announced it will support its members if they choose to strike over fears about coronavirus safety precautions.

Union leaders say there are no such discussions in Kentucky or Indiana, but neither is there clear agreement on what it means to be “safe” in the classroom.

“We don’t have clear metrics,” Indiana State Teacher Association Vice President Jennifer Smith-Margaf said, “to guide administrators and give parents transparency about when we need to close school buildings or close school corporations.”

First grade teacher Brittney Gee hangs a picture in her classroom at Byck Elementary
First grade teacher Brittney Gee hangs a picture in her classroom at Byck Elementary (Source: WAVE 3 News)

The 6,000 teachers represented by The Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) and the 25,000 represented by the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) also find no clear cut benchmarks on how COVID-19 numbers might affect future decisions on classroom learning.

“A lot of our districts were making plans based on the fact that our numbers in the state, the spread, was going down,” KEA President Eddie Campbell said. “And now we are back into a resurgence. So again, it’s a moving target that changes from day to day, week to week.”

“Things need to be getting better,” JCTA President Brent McKim said. “They need to have gotten better enough that you’re not at or near a hotspot kind of level. You need to be able to feel that you have a good plan in place in order to be able to go back.”

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