RPS 205 staff protests for a safer return to school

Employees bring signs to administration building with questions they want answered.
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 9:31 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - School starts for Rockford Public School District 205 in four weeks, but staff members aren’t convinced the current plan is safe enough. Dozens of RPS 205 teachers gathered at the administration building on 7th street Tuesday to protest the return to in-person instruction.

“Who wants to be the person that causes someone to die? We all just want to be there to teach,” says Millisa Jaycox. “We should only be going back when it’s safe.”

The signs all read different questions ranging from ‘will there be substitutes?’ to ‘who will be liable when someone dies from COVID?’ Retired RPS 205 teacher Pat Pekarsky says she doesn’t believe the plan was thought out enough, and fears for the older teachers.

“Should schools be death traps? I mean I would not want to go to school and teach. Oh it’d just be awful I’d be worried all the time for the kids and me,” she says. “We have not come up with a solid plan that’s good. We’re just going to kind of open schools on a wing and a prayer.”

While many at the protest were against reopening schools for in-person altogether, others worry for the community’s most vulnerable learners if remote is the only option.

“We also have an important obligation to our most vulnerable students who need social and emotional support, who need help learning how to read and getting an exposure to school,” says RPS 205 Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. “We are going to do everything we can to return to school as safely as possible.”

Those who benefit from in-person instruction are those with special needs, English learners and the nearly 1,200 students that are part of a digital divide. There are options available for staff to meet with HR for medical exemptions and concerns while returning. RPS 205 tells 23 News they hope to have the results of all students decisions for in-person or remote by the end of this week. They say once they know how many will return to the classroom, then they will plan schedules and staffing.

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