CEA Media Release: CEA Calls on All School Districts to Involve Educators in the Planning for a Return to School this Fall

July 8, 2020

Association Says Certain Expectations Must be Met to Ensure Safety of All Students, Staff

DENVER – The Colorado Education Association (CEA) and its more than 39,000 members, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are calling on all school districts across the state to involve educators when planning for the safe return to in-person classroom teaching for the upcoming 2020-21 academic school year.

“Educators want nothing more than to return to their schools and classrooms, knowing in-person instruction is preferred, but it must be done in a thoughtful, safe and responsible way, taking into account not only the recommendations and guidelines of public health officials, but also the voices of parents, students and educators,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor and president of CEA.

Complicating the issue is the state’s system of local control. Unlike most states in which the public school system is administered by the state, public schools in Colorado fall under the control of local school districts, resulting in 178 separate districts each making their own decisions as to whether or not a physical return to school in the fall is plausible and what the conditions will be if and when students and educators do return.

There are a number of significant variables among Colorado districts’ plans for a return to school in the fall, including but not limited to whether temperature checks and mask wearing will be mandatory or not.

To ensure consistency and the health and safety of the state’s nearly 914,000 students and more than 55,000 educators during a return to in-person instruction this fall, CEA and its members’ are asking to be included in the decision-making process. The expectations include:

  1. Involving employee voices. Districts and educators should bargain the necessary conditions to return to school and confirm with a vote of approval by all employees.
  2. Safety protocols and protections must be provided. PPE and health protocols must be in place for students and staff.
  3. Transparency. Disease data must be available to all families, staff and community members immediately and consistently.
  4. Equity for all. Students, staff and families must always be provided with equitable access to education and tools, no matter where the learning occurs.

“There are countless justifiable reasons that students should return to the classroom in the fall,” added Baca-Oehlert. “In addition to their academic and social-emotional development, and physical and mental health needs, many students depend on school for their daily meals. Parents and family members rely on schools for economic reasons, allowing them to return to work.

“But those reasons alone don’t dismiss educators’ valid fears and concerns and the risk of being exposed to the virus, especially as we see cases spiking in parts across the country.”

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