St. Louis Public School teachers hold silent protest over district’s reopening plan

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ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS first grade teacher Cindy Digar, holds signs during a protest outside of the St. Louis Public School headquarters in St. Louis on Monday, July 13, 2020. Teachers and faculty have not been told what rules are in place for student and teacher safety as schools are scheduled to begin on Aug. 24, 2020. A St. Louis Public Schools committee is working on a plan to address all concerns for safety. – Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo

St. Louis Public School District (SLPS) teachers took part in a silent protest Monday to express their discomfort  with the district’s reopening plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers, faculty and some parents demonstrated in front of the district’s main office on 11th Street in downtown St. Louis Monday afternoon, saying they will not take part in a reopening plan they believe risks the lives of students, staff and parents.

Organizers are calling for online learning to be the only option until St. Louis City has 30 consecutive days of no new COVID-19 cases.

“How will we safely get them to the school? How will we get them to the building?” teacher Ribbon Williams said. “They have to catch buses, they have to walk to school, who is going to be taking temperatures and monitoring students before they get to the school?”

Williams has been with the district for five years.

ART TEACHER Carolyn Bryant of Patrick Henry School, holds a sign, during a protest outside of the St. Louis Public School headquarters in St. Louis on Monday, July 13, 2020. Teachers and faculty have not been told what rules are in place for student and teacher safety as schools are scheduled to begin on Aug. 24, 2020. A St. Louis Public Schools committee is working on a plan to address all concerns for safety. – Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo

Teachers are also asking for hazard pay, class size limits of 10 students per room and a full time nurse, social worker or counselor in every building.

Teachers are also asking to be included on every committee to talk about their classroom needs and the needs of parents.

“We are looking at this plan,” said Byron Clemens, head of the SLPS Teachers Union. “It’s not dead in the water, it moves every day. We just got the collaborative plan that was released and some people are looking at it as if it were written in stone and it’s not. We’re going to move things positively but our first job is to look after the health and safety of our children and then our employees and the community at large.”

Clemens says the district has been very receptive to many of the concerns teachers and staff have about returning to school.

ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers take to the shaded areas during a protest outside of the St. Louis Public School headquarters on Monday, July 13, 2020. – Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo

Options like outdoor learning remain strong possibilities.

He is also calling on local corporations and non-profits to assist in providing any additional PPE supplies schools may need to stay safe.

The district said in a statement their commitment is to “ensure the highest levels of safety for all, that includes, physical, and emotional health and wellness.”

Both St. Louis City and County released guidelines for back to school plans but few details have been released from individual districts.

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