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Kenosha teachers union calls in-person learning 'dangerous and untenable'

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Posted at 5:08 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 13:24:37-04

KENOSHA — The Kenosha teachers union says in-person teaching at Kenosha public schools will have harmful - and potentially fatal - consequences and described the current situation as "dangerous and untenable."

At least three positive COVID-19 cases at Indian Trail High School has forced 16 teachers and over a 100 students into quarantine. On Monday, 276 teachers called in sick in the Kenosha Unified School District.

The school district announced on Monday that the following schools will switch to all virtual learning: Bradford, Harborside, Indian Trail, Lakeview, Lincoln, Reuther and Tremper. But that does not include all schools in the district.

The union, the Kenosha Education Association, said there are also reports of COVID-19 cases at Prairie Lane Elementary and Bullen Middle School.

The KEA say some staff are even living in their basements to keep their families safe and "preserve their livelihoods."

"Given the number of positive cases confirmed in several buildings after the first week back, it is clear that in-person instruction will further contribute to community spread and will have harmful, and potentially fatal, consequences for educators, students, and families.The current situation is dangerous and untenable," a KEA spokesperson told TMJ4 News in a statement Monday.

"We are sympathetic to the inconvenience this has undoubtedly caused families. We also know educators in this community are deeply distressed by being forced to enter unsafe buildings that put our students, themselves, and the community at risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19," according to the association.

The Kenosha Unified School District is Wisconsin's third largest school district. Southeast Wisconsin continues to lead the state in rising numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Parents and students were notified late Sunday night about the switch.

“I got the call about 10:15 p.m.,” said Jennifer Weber, a parent of a high school junior at Harborside Academy. “It just said due to staff shortages they were canceling schools for the high schools and there were one of two middle schools put in.”

Some parents weren’t surprised by Sunday night’s call from the district.

“I think it is the new norm right now and we are going to have to deal,” said Peggy Flynn who is a parents of a Harborside Academy student.

“It was bound to happen,” said Martha Caldara who is a parent of a Brass Elementary student.

The Kenosha Unified School School Board has flipped-flopped on how students should be going back to school. It first voted to return to classes virtually. Then it reversed course and allowed hybrid learning. The Kenosha teachers union has been opposed to any in-person learning.

“We also know there are absences that are legitimate,” said Tanya Ruder, chief communications officers for the Kenosha Unified School District. “But the rest we do have to investigate.”

The district says they are covering all the staff absences Monday by combining classes and re-purposing certified staff from other areas of the district. But those teachers who called in sick are not teaching virtually.

Weber hopes this is just a temporary for her daughter.

“This is not a babysitting request. She wants to be in school,” said Weber.

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