Stand with us and keep us safe. That was the message Windsor Locks teachers sent to Board of Education members last night, calling on them to take the necessary steps to ensure school safety.
Windsor Locks Teachers’ Association President Brian Deming said the board is not listening to teachers’ concerns and has repeatedly refused to take the steps necessary to keep students and teachers safe or take other actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Teachers no longer feel that they are able to provide a safe space for their students to learn and grow,” said Deming. “Teachers are anxious to talk about their concerns, but their voices are not being heard.”
Working together with CEA staff, Windsor Locks teachers sent more than 50 emails to board members and organized together in a show of solidarity. Dozens of teachers joined over 200 participants on last night’s Board of Education virtual meeting to share their concerns and let parents and the community know what’s happening in their classrooms.
“Teachers organized and came out in force to support our students and to encourage board of education members to work together with us to provide the best learning and teaching environments in our schools,” said Deming.
Teacher Elisabeth Corbo-Vogler, speaking in her classroom and wearing a mask as she does when instructing her students, told board members that they must ensure the safety and well-being of students during this pandemic.
“It is extremely disheartening to know that the board of education, whose primary charge is to students and their educational welfare, is resistant to the point of being dismissive,” said Corbo-Volger.
Despite CDC protocols for social distancing of six feet to prevent the spread of COVID-19, “in a classroom, especially in the elementary level social distancing is only a priority when it can be achieved,” she said. “Don’t our students deserve better?”
Among the concerns are the lack of necessary resources, including guaranteeing PPE, providing CDC-approved cleaning supplies and disinfectants, and committing to appropriate social distancing. Teachers also cite the lack of adequate time for planning to create quality lesson plans and the district’s unwillingness to allow remote accommodations for teachers with high risk conditions.
Parents attending the meeting expressed their disappointment that the board members voted to return the high school and middle school to full in-person learning on November 9.
“I’m concerned about packing kids into hallways and classrooms,” said Shannon Couchon, a Windsor Locks parent of a high school and middle school student and a Windsor teacher. “It’s a huge load you are going to dump on top of teachers. Parents are supporting them. There needs to be more thought before putting everyone back into the building.”
Taika Bilbo, a Windsor Locks parent and Granby teacher, urged the board to listen to the voices of teachers, who are working tirelessly to meet the needs of all their students.
“We need to listen to the teachers who are doing their best and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ They are going full blast. It’s an exhausting job, and they are totally wiped out.” She compared teachers’ workload to working in a restaurant, single handed, where you have to take the orders, cook the food, and serve it. At the end of the day, she said, “it’s unsustainable.”
Windsor Locks student Jimmy Quagliaroli applauded his teachers. “They have risen to the challenge that has been 2020. I appreciate what they do, and I am grateful for having such wonderful people in my life.”
Teachers are asking the board to commit to working closely with them on COVID-19 safety and exposure protocols, provide much-needed planning time, guarantee remote teaching during any quarantines, and prevent teachers from working in conditions that put them and their students at risk.
“I am so proud of everything that our hard-working, dedicated educators have accomplished during these extremely difficult times,” added Deming. “We remain ready to work with the board on a mutually agreeable resolution that benefits students, teachers, and the entire Windsor Locks community.”