Stevens Point public teachers rally against in-person classes
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – About two dozen teachers and family members rallied on Aug. 10, in front of the district’s administration center, in opposition to the Stevens Point School District’s decision to start the school year in the classroom.
The “silent rally” was organized to “advocate for a safer school reopening plan for the students and staff in the Stevens Point Area Public School District” in an effort to prompt the school board to reconsider the decision to return to face-to face instruction.
“We are here to rally on the night of the school board meeting to voice our concern that we have not been part of the conversation to reopen schools and that we don’t believe the current outline of opening is safe enough for staff and students, especially to maintain it for any amount of time,” Stevens Point Area Education Association (SPAEA) President Keith Olson.
“We want to be a voice in the process of deciding what is going to happen and what it is going to look like. We as an association, we ran a survey two weeks ago and an overwhelming majority of our teachers said that things are not good enough to open face to face, and that they would prefer to start the year as an e-learning situation, like we ended the year last year. At least having that as a discussion point and having our concerns heard, and having a little bit more input from the teachers as to how this is supposed to happen.”
SPAEA Vice President Schuyler Pietz said that survey was sent out to as many teachers in the district as possible.
“The district would not let us use school email, so we had to just do it through personal email and word of mouth as much as we could,” she said.
Of the 162 teachers that responded to the survey, Pietz said 57.8 percent chose e-learning as a preferred method to begin the school year.
“Many of those staff are just really scared for themselves, for their students, and just everyone’s safety,” she added.
“Many of our classrooms aren’t big enough to do proper social distancing. I know as a music teacher, we are going to be traveling around to every classroom. So, we are terrified that we are going to somehow spread it around the school, and that we could be responsible for making our students or our coworkers or their families sick, or even dead. So, we are terrified. A lot of staff are nervous and feeling sort of helpless right now.
“Another surprising thing from that survey was that 50 percent of the staff that was surveyed has either considered or already made plans to retire or leave teaching,” Olson added. “So, they’ve given some serious thought to leaving the profession, because they don’t want to be in a classroom where they could potentially bring a deadly virus home to a family member.”
Due to restrictions on email use and logistics on getting the survey out, Pietz said it was unclear how many teachers received the survey.