By Marissa Armas

DENVER (CBS4)– There are many different opinions on whether the Denver Public Schools district should move back to remote learning because of the high number of COVID-19 cases surging around the state, and for many teachers on the front lines they feel like they’re not being heard by district officials.

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“Teachers are being set on fire,” said Tim Hernández, a teacher at North High School. “And teachers need systems that are willing to take that fire off of us, dump us in the water, whatever we need to do to provide the best version of education.”

Hernández said that while the school district wants teachers to continue teaching under the growing concerns of the pandemic, the administration is not listening to their concerns.

“We need a virtual learning pause, and we need systems that are inherently based upon the safety of our communities,” Hernández said. “We need to make sure that we can do things to keep our kids and teachers safe.”

In the last two weeks, there were nearly two dozen reported teacher absences at Knapp Elementary School. A teacher at Knapp, who did not want to be identified told CBS4, most the absences are COVID-related. And Knapp isn’t the only school facing these issues. In a statement, a spokesperson with the district said, “Lots of our schools are dealing with the same shortages that Knapp is.”

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The Denver Classroom Teachers Association said while they know in-person learning is best for students, with the state’s current surge in cases, teachers are struggling.

“We’ve heard reports of teachers being gone and then they have to double up, they have to split the classroom and have other teachers come in and cover it for this period, and cover it for the next period,” said Rob Gould, the DCTA president. “What I’m hearing from educators is that the decisions that are being made downtown is that ‘we have to keep schools open no matter what.’ And what ends of happening is let’s piecemeal things together, and students aren’t really getting the education they deserve.”

Gould said if the district doesn’t want to move entirely to remote learning, schools should be able to decide independently if they’d like to stay open, based on their covid situation. But Dr. Alex Marrero, the district superintendent said he is committed to keeping schools open for in-person learning despite the uptick in cases and staffing shortages. And parent Erika Quiñones agrees with the district saying that the last remote learning period stalled her son’s growth and scheduling was tough for her as a single parent.

”I’m concerned with him falling behind,” said Quiñones. “Emotionally he didn’t take it well, and I don’t want him to be discouraged. Last time when we did do remote learning he started losing confidence in his abilities.”

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Gould and Hernandez said that currently, the district hasn’t really provided educators with a plan on how they are mitigating the virus within schools. They said many schools are not being provided the right resources, like masks and tests at every schools.

Marissa Armas