During the two weeks since many Texas school districts resumed in-person instruction, members of the Texas State Teachers Association have reported hundreds of violations of COVID-19 safety guidelines. On Tuesday, the organization filed its first grievance over the deficiencies.
The complaint filed against Killeen ISD alleges teachers and staff are being forced to work in unsafe conditions.
“The safety of the students, the staff and the KISD community must come first,” Killeen Educators Association President Rick Beaule said. “This isn’t about whether we want to work. We desperately want to teach our students to be the best they can be. This just can’t happen as we stand right now. Student cases have already begun to rise.”
The online survey of 664 TSTA members from 135 districts around the state released Monday documented a variety of district practices and deficiencies, including personnel policies, which violate recommended guidelines or best practices for school safety during the pandemic.
“The biggest issue our members are raising involves inadequate accommodations for high-risk employees or those with high-risk dependents at home. These teachers with underlying health conditions should be allowed to teach remotely from home, but in many cases, they are being required to teach from their classrooms or risk losing their jobs,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said. “Other major concerns are inadequate staffing to carry out the new safety measures and inadequate, short-sighted sick leave policies that discourage anyone from staying home.”
Molina said it is apparent that some districts are not committed to keeping potentially sick employees from coming to work, where they could infect other employees and students.
Among physical conditions in schools, the most common issues cited in the survey were problems with ventilation that prevent circulation of fresh air and a lack of social distancing in classrooms.
TSTA has also received large numbers of reports from its members about violations of the governor’s mask order in schools and inadequate personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies.
“The state of Texas has been in too big a hurry to reopen school buildings,” said Molina. “Texas isn’t back to normal yet, and no amount of premature school openings is going to change that. We hope we haven’t prolonged the day when we can think about being normal again.”
Here are the numbers of violations of safety issues reported by TSTA members: Noncompliance with mask mandate: 246
Inadequate classroom social distancing: 385
Inadequate ventilation or ventilation equipment: 401
Inadequate protective supplies (masks, etc.): 357
Inadequate access to cleaning/sanitation supplies: 243
Insufficient accommodations for high-risk school employees or family members: 435
Lack of school quarantine space or process: 247
Inadequate or inequitable availability of distance-learning resources for students: 238 Inadequate district sick leave policies: 337
Inadequate mitigation policies for lunch or transportation: 255
Lack of health/safety policy enforcement: 268
Insufficient staffing for new measures and protocols: 370
TSTA isn’t the only teachers’ group monitoring how school districts are handling COVID-19. Last week, the Texas American Federation of Teachers unveiled a new online system for tracking COVID-19 cases in schools. Stopthespreadtx.school has logged nearly 600 cases in less than a week.
With the statewide caseload and hospitalizations recovering from records set in July, Gov. Greg Abbott has been hinting at a further relaxation of his COVID-19 restrictions. As of Tuesday, however, he has yet to make any formal announcements.