JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Teachers in the Jefferson County Education Association were up and down Wadsworth Boulevard on Monday afternoon, on foot and in their cars with signs calling for a change in the start to school next month related to coronavirus concerns. The current plan calls for a hybrid model of in-person learning and remote classes but teachers say the school district should be completely online into October.
“Online learning until it is safe is the best form of learning or our students,” said Rhiannon Wenning, a social studies teacher at Jefferson Junior Senior High School. “I am still going to provide the best education for my students it will just be online instead of in person.”
The Jefferson County School District sent a statement to CBS4 on Monday responding to the actions by the teachers’ union. A plan to begin the school year with the hybrid model was released on July 23. The district says it worked with its entire staff and consulted associations throughout the process. It goes on to say it has addressed questions online brought up by teachers. Ultimately, the superintendent would need to approve any changes to the restart policy.
“We intend to start school the week of August 24 under the current (July 23) plan unless public health orders change,” the statement added.
The second largest school district in Colorado, JeffCo will have all remote learning at the beginning of the school year. Elementary students will begin in-person learning on Sept. 8. Grades 6 – 12 will alternate in-person starting on the same date.
Wenning has taught for 20 years and currently works with ninth through eleventh grades at the school. She has expressed concerns about keeping the building clean and making sure students can practice good hygiene. While masks will be required, she is worried not everyone will have one at school.
“I have no clue and I am perplexed at how we’re going to maintain social distancing in hallways, even with staggered passing periods,” she said. “We have the training, we have the knowledge, and we also have dedicated professionals who have worked so hard this past spring and this summer.”
Her subjects this upcoming year will include World History, Geography, and U.S. Government. She believes that the experience students will have at home this fall can still give them a quality education and it should not be compared to what happened in the spring. Immediately after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wenning says teachers had to practice emergency and crisis learning. Months later, they can provide a remote education that will still meet the expectations of parents and the administration.
Teachers like Wenning say they will return to the classroom if required but they have also taken steps to prepare for the risks they see with that decision. She knows other teachers may be more at risk and need to work remotely so she would rather let them take one of the spots for virtual learning. The district has provided a service to help teachers write a living will, which Wenning request knowing she may be back at work this school year.
“I’m scared to death, I’ll be honest, I’m worried I could possibly die,” she said. “No amount of masks, no amount of social distancing, no amount of anything is going to make me feel safe except being 100% online until October.”