Rockford Education Association responds to comments made by Winnebago County Health Department leaders

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - After Winnebago County health officials address the spread of COVID-19 in area schools, teachers defend their safety efforts and the Rockford Education Association issued a letter in support of its members.

“No school level or grade has been spared in all of this,” said Dr. Sandra Martell.

With more than 43 schools reporting positive cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, Winnebago County Health Department Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell says teachers may have some role in the spread of the virus.

“Often times, we’re having to quarantine more because if the teachers mix a cohort, we’ve talked about this before. If I’m a teacher of 20 and you’re a teacher of 20 and we combine our classes, if one exposure occurs, now we’ve got 40 children impacted versus just 20,” said Dr. Martell.

Rockford Education Association President Mel Gilfillan says that simply isn’t the case.

“I don’t know what else was happening at schools throughout Winnebago County. But I do know our teachers, like I said, we’re not going out of our way, we’re not taking our masks off, we’re not encouraging our kids to have their masks off, we’re not doing anything in that classroom to break up cohorts,” said Gilfillan.

Standing in solidarity with their fellow teachers, Gilfillan says the REA is committed keeping students safe.

“We wanted people to know our teachers are doing the best they can, and they continue to work hard and that’s the bottom line. We can’t do everything; we can’t stop COVID-19, but we’re doing the best we can to follow the rules that are in place in our classrooms and our schools,” said Gilfillan.

Dr. Martell released a statement in response to the union’s letter, which you can read in full here.

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