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Dallas Teacher Not Sure When She Will Feel Safe Returning to the Classroom

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Dallas School leaders have logged hours of planning for the upcoming school year. Still, there's some trepidation among educators about returning to the classroom. For one family, the dynamics and circumstances further complicate those fears.

Kelisha Johnson-Champion is living with a sense of fear and uncertainty.

“It’s just a fear that we don’t know how it could play out,” she said. “At this point, I don’t know if I feel safe at all.”

She’s a teacher at Seagoville Middle School in the Dallas Independent School District. Her husband is a principal in another district. Their three children attend college, grade school and preschool. As she put it, everyone in their household is “in the school system.”

“Our household, from my daughter down to the three-year-old we’re in some form of education,” said Johnson-Champion.

Anxiety spikes at the thought of both her and her husband physically returning to school. Even a nearby relative works in a school, so she worries that keeping her family safe will be difficult.

“Pretty much impossible,” she said. “We don’t’ have that type of fallback plan because all of us are educators.”

On top of that, Johnson-Champion’s health is a major concern. She suffers from seizures and she’s battled cancer.

“I’m high risk. So, returning to work for me would be extremely unsafe,” she said. “I had a tumor that was found in my colon again. I actually said the other day I fear I won’t be able to see my child grow up. And no parent wants to say that.”

Dallas school leaders have pushed back virtual and in-person learning to September 8. They’ve also announced some changes to take place inside schools to enhance safety. But Johnson-Champion wants to be sure no stone is left unturned.

“One question is how are lunches a going to roll out? How are restroom breaks going to be rolled out?” she wondered. “There are so many things that need to be rolled out. So those are things that I think of as a teacher.”

Ultimately, Johnson-Champion said she wants to be able to breathe easy when she walks into a classroom again.

“I’ve never thought about possibly not being there for my children until now,” she said. “I just want it to be okay. Like really a safe situation for all of us.”

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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