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Union for Aspen (Colo.) district teachers says many will quit or go on leave if reopening plans move forward

Oct. 21, 2020
Union representative tells the Aspen school board that 45% of school staff is considering quitting or going on leave.

The union representing teachers in the Aspen (Colo.) school district says 45% of the staff is considering taking leave or resigning if the district's plan to reopen schools next week is carried out.

The Aspen Times reports that the Aspen Education Association presented a petition to the Aspen school board and Superintendent David Baugh calling for protections to be put into place before a reopening plan moves forward.

The teachers want all individuals to be able to maintain consistent social distancing of at least 6 feet; they want “a written public plan for Covid-19 protocols, especially regarding safety practices, and the transition between different learning environments, with clear scientific markers for change between learning models”;  and they want union leadership and members involved in crafting the reopening plan "to ensure educator and staff voice is heard.”

After a first quarter of online learning, the Aspen district plans to open classrooms in its middle and high schools Oct. 26 under a hybrid model, with students alternating their in-person learning with remote learning though weekly cohorts.

The elementary school started a two-day cohort system Sept. 8, and it would reopen fully Oct. 26 under the latest plan. Elementary students will remain restricted to their class groups with interaction with students outside their cohorts not permitted.

Marnie White, representing the teachers union, says educators haven’t had much of a say in the reopening plans and have felt disrespected and under-appreciated during the process.

“While we understand that these are unprecedented and trying times, staff deserve a voice in determining what our working conditions will be,” says White, a music teacher at the elementary school. “There should be clear, science-based protocols in place that determine when it is safe for schools to open, to be hybrid, or when it becomes necessary to return to virtual learning.”

Board member Jonathan Nickell says the district is following recommendations set by public health experts and “isn’t in any way violating the guidelines that have been set.”

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