PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Some public school educators are so worried about returning to the classroom amid a pandemic they are threatening to walk out. Gov. Doug Ducey pushed back in-person instruction to August 17, but some feel that’s still too soon to be on campus with students. Now, there’s a grassroots effort to make sure their voices get heard.

“If they are sending us back without clear cut answers and clear cut guidelines that are protecting lives, then we are sacrificial lambs,” says third grade teacher Stacy Brosius.

Brosius may soon find herself at a crossroads. If she’s told to return to class, she says she will make the difficult decision to either walk away from the profession she loves or walk out for change.

“I’m willing to do what it takes at this point,” says Brosius.

“I want the best for those kids. And I’m angry, but we cannot jump from being angry to a walkout,” says kindergarten teacher Kelley Fisher.

For now, she’s encouraging colleagues to spread the message demanding school leaders make decisions that protect teachers, students, and their families.

“What we want is to know that there is time to put those plans into place, that there is time for our districts to create safety measures,” says Fisher.

A survey conducted by the Arizona Education Association involved more than 7,500 educators and found 8 out of 10 do not want to return to their campuses until public health experts say it’s safe. More than 60% of educators surveyed said they want their schools to implement a complete online or distance learning model.

Fisher, who has preexisting health problems, wants to continue online instruction.

“I’ve been hospitalized a few times in my adult life for my asthma,” says Fisher. “Am I willing to go back into the classroom? Absolutely because I love what I do every day with my students. Do I want to put myself at risk? Not necessarily.”

Fisher and Brosius are organizing a motor march on July 15, along 83rd Avenue and Bell. It will be the first of a series of caravans letting their communities know they are concerned about COVID-19 health risks at schools.

Both say no one wants to have in-person teaching more than teachers. They don’t want to see their students’ health or education suffer.

“Those kids don’t deserve this,” says Brosius. “They don’t at all.”

Arizona’s Department of Education does not develop district policies but issues guidance on how districts can plan for the new school year.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued this statement:

Like all educators, I share a strong desire to get our students back in the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so. But like so many Arizonans, I am concerned about rising COVID-19 numbers in our state and the school year's looming start.

As we all prepare for the upcoming school year, it is critical to listen to and amplify teachers' voices. Last month the Arizona Department of Education held a virtual teacher table with educators around the state to discuss recruitment, retention, and diversifying our workforce amid COVID-19. In addition to our Teachers' Table, ADE has weekly conversations with the Arizona Education Association and other education stakeholders to discuss the process for safely returning to school. I highly encourage all districts and charter schools to invite their educators to the decision-making table as well.

While in-person instruction is critical to the social, emotional, and academic development of children, we cannot ignore the severity of COVID-19 in Arizona and how that impacts adults and children alike in our school communities.

 

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