Lawrence teachers hold ‘teach-in’ protest, speaking out against hybrid plans

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) — The fight over how students attend school this fall continues across the metro. 

On Monday, teachers in one local district banded together to fight against return plans they feel are not safe.

A group of Lawrence Public School teachers and paraprofessionals took online learning outside to start the new week. They set up socially distant workspaces on the district office front lawn. The group called it a “teach-in protest.”  

Lawrence students are in fully remote school now but are set to start hybrid learning in two weeks.

“We’ve developed a list of concerns that we have with opening, and we feel like we haven’t been heard. So this is one way to demonstrate that,” said Mary Lee, Southwest Middle School paraeducator and treasurer of Paraeducator Association of Lawrence.

Lee knows her age and health put her at higher risk for coronavirus. She believes the district hasn’t done enough to explain its safety measures to protect kids and teachers.

“Without all this information, how do we know it’s safe? And if it’s not safe, is it worth the risk of your child’s life?” Lee said.

Mom Tresa McAlhaney thinks there are still too many coronavirus cases in Douglas County to bring kids back into school buildings.

“We just got settled into the virtual learning, and I think it’s important to have as minimal disruption as possible,” McAlhaney said. “So if we can address the needs of the students that are falling through the cracks of virtual without sending all of us back in hybrid, I think that’s a better solution.”

District leaders know not everyone will agree on what’s best for kids, but in a video shared online, the superintendent expressed disappointment with “incivility and respect” around plans for bringing students back.

“Our children are watching us,” Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis said. “I respect your right to continue with distance learning. We will reach our students wherever they are. We are excited to have our amazing students back in front of our talented teachers in classrooms.”

But teachers demonstrating Monday wish the district would hear out their concerns and for the community to understand that hybrid learning won’t be ideal.

“I feel like there’s a lot of people who want us to go back to normal, but we can’t go back to normal.  Right now, there is no normal,” said Amanda Painter-Ingram, a special education teacher at Pinckney Elementary.

Educators have delivered a list of their requests to the superintendent in hopes it’ll lead to safety changes in the classroom.

The district is currently planning to return students with hybrid learning Oct. 19.

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