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As schools prepare to reopen, some educators express concern

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BATON ROUGE - As August approaches, another school year is on the horizon, albeit one that won't look like a typical school year. 

School systems across the state are starting to release their plans to welcome students and teachers back to the classroom safely, but some educators don't know how feasible that is as COVID-19 cases surge.

"Teachers and school employees, right now, are afraid to go to school in a traditional way," Larry Carter, President of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers said.

Carter says some school districts don't have the means to have proper safety protocols in place.

"To truly reopen schools safely, there are probably 50 to 60 percent of the school districts, due to the impacts of COVID-19, that doesn't allow them to have a really strong or healthy budget," Carter said. "Most of them are actually, probably running medium to large deficits."

LFT is expressing a slew of concerns about teacher protection on campus, including what happens to an educator that tests positive and the viability of bringing substitute teachers, many of whom are older, into classrooms.

"A substitute comes into a school district who has not been prepared thoroughly surrounding the policies and the guidelines, could not just impact themselves but those additional particular people in that specific classroom," Carter said.

In a series of surveys of teachers, school employees, and community members in the capital area, LFT found the following related to reopening school campuses:

32 % of school employees said, 'schools should not open right away, we need more time to ensure everyone's safety'

28% of schools employees said, 'mixed -- I think that both in-person and distance learning options should be available

22% of school employees said, 'No -- learning should be 100% virtual until there is a vaccine'

Carter says a hybrid model, mixing virtual and in-person instruction, provides teachers with safer options but cautions many districts should consider delaying the semester, or at least in-person classes until COVID-19 cases in the area start to decrease.

"Until that's done and there are 14 days where there are no cases of COVID-19 increasing, then I think we'll have teachers and school employees a little more relaxed and encouraged that safety protocols are in place, that the coronavirus is not increasing any further, and we can now think about how to gradually reopen schools."


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