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Union still supports delay of school on teachers’ first day back

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 8:31 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Teachers’ first day back to school can be just as loud and noisy as students’ first day back, but Gretna middle school teacher Rosalyn Spencer says it was much quieter in the halls.

“There was still that connection but we also realize moments that it wasn’t the same that that thing of touch are the small things of sitting together we could no longer do,” said Spencer.

During these professional development days teachers prepare their classrooms and lesson plans to welcome back hundreds of students. But now, Spencer says it was almost overwhelming. They’re preparing for unforeseen scenarios, asking questions of new pandemic protocols, and worrying about protecting staff and students from getting sick.

“The situation is something we’ve never dealt with before and the fact is we’re taking it on, we’re looking at these questions, we know it could change daily, that it takes one ill child and we’re gonna have to readdress it and go back to the drawing board,” said Spencer.

The Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers pushed the district to delay the start of school, and when a re-opening was inevitable, released a list of 165 questions and concerns for the district to answer.

“We do want to know if they did get more details about the safety plans what that looks like in practice and if they’re comfortable with those plans,” said president, Kesler Camese-Jones.

Union reps made the rounds to individual schools to see for themselves what teachers and students would be walking into. Still wanting to hear back from more members about policies and supplies, Camese-Jones can’t definitely say if Jefferson Parish schools are prepared to reopen.

“We have to make sure the classrooms are safe at the building itself is safe we have all those things we need to protect ourselves for them and the students so that adds another layer of stress, so we just want to make sure that people are comfortable feeling at ease and if not we need to go back,” said Camese-Jones.

After recovering from an especially draining first day, Spencer says it’s almost inevitably going to be an emotional year.

“Valuing what you’re calling is in valuing the safety and health and how it plays this tug-of-war in your mind consistently…we do not know what’s coming tomorrow but we’re gonna do the best we can in this moment,” said Spencer.

The district's newly appointed superintendent, Dr. James Gray also made the rounds to school sites.

After a meeting with the union on Friday, Union leaders say a number of teachers were allowed to continue teaching virtually though we don't know how many.

Approximately 40 percent of students in Jefferson Parish signed up for the virtual option.

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