DENVER – As schools begin closing across Colorado to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Colorado Education Association has a message for school districts: feed children and pay staff.
“Student safety is the top concern of every educator and CEA members respect the decision of many districts to close schools in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We must be mindful, though, that our public schools are safe, supportive environments for Colorado children and provide critical resources that our students can’t afford to miss for a prolonged period,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor.
“Educators are keenly aware that many children only receive hot, nutritious meals by way of school breakfasts and lunches. We applaud the districts that have already created plans to ensure students have access to food during the school closures and we are calling on all districts to utilize the UDSA waiver to allow emergency feeding programs for students in all districts that are experiencing closures,” Baca-Oehlert said.
Baca-Oehlert emphasized that districts have a responsibility to compensate dedicated teachers and school support staff during school closures too. “The people who keep our schools running – custodians, food service workers, secretaries and bus drivers just to name some – are most vulnerable to distress and losing their sense of economic security during a long school closure. Districts must value the immeasurable contributions of education support professionals to student success and compensate them with the full pay and benefits they would normally receive during the school year.”
CEA also calls on the Colorado Department of Education to reassess and waive standardized testing requirements for students. We are also calling for discussions on the impacts of school closures at this point in the year on educator evaluations. “Districts should focus resources to student needs,” observed Baca-Oehlert. “Our educators, students and families have enough stress and uncertainty in their lives right now and high stakes testing that is linked to educator evaluations shouldn’t be yet another weight on their minds.”
The coronavirus will test our school communities to be at their best for students and employees, Baca Oehlert added, and those that rise to the challenge will be remembered for lending comfort and care at this critical time.
“Districts attempting to solve one crisis can create a different kind of crisis for students and educators by not keeping a ‘people-first’ sense of purpose. The last thing we need at this time is to create any more anxiety for people than is already out there,” Baca-Oehlert concluded.
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