Lawrence teachers protest possible return to classrooms next month

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Several teachers stood outside of Lawrence USD 497 School District headquarters Monday evening, protesting the fact they may have to go back to their classrooms during a pandemic.

The teachers point out COVID-19 cases aren’t going down as many school districts hoped they would as they’re making these decisions. They’re actually going up.

Protesters stood 6 feet apart, but unified in their stance that Lawrence shouldn’t reopen schools until there are no new cases in Lawrence for at least 14 days.

“The world isn’t going to end because a building doesn’t open, but I’m really not willing to put one child at risk,” school counselor Catherine Bolton said.

Since late May, 150 staff members worked on a task force whose name shows the outcome the district planned to achieve, “Together Again, Fall 2020 Reopening.”

But protesters with signs in hand and on their honking cars said decisions should be based on data, not the calendar. 

“We want to go back to normal, but COVID-19 doesn’t care what we want, and COVID-19 is in charge right now,” teacher Jessica Larsen said.

A district survey conducted in June shows 68% of parents were concerned or very concerned with sending their children back to school. School board members said those numbers might be higher if conducted now. 

Teachers said Lawrence students are provided take-home technology and are now more prepared for virtual learning than they were in the emergency situation in the spring.

They accused the district of folding to political pressure pushing for the reopening. 

“Whatever August brings, we will be prepared to pivot should we need to,” Dr. Anthony Lewis, Lawrence USD 497 Superintendent, told the board.

He added there is no higher priority than the health and well being of students and staff.

The district is also considering giving parents options for virtual learning or some sort of blended education.

The Lawrence School Board plans to meet again in two weeks after the State of Kansas releases its guidelines for education during COVID-19 later this week. 

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