Death of Dallas Teacher Deepens Concerns About Schools Reopening

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The death of a Dallas ISD teacher is deepening fears about returning to the classroom.

With 450 new coronavirus cases reported in Dallas County on Monday, and Judge Clay Jenkins warning of an “uptick” in cases, tens of thousands of Dallas ISD students returned to the classroom Monday for the first time in six months.

“It’s frightening. It’s dangerous. People are very afraid not only for their jobs but for their lives,” said Rena Honea, president of Alliance AFT, a union representing thousands of Dallas ISD employees.

Monday’s return to in-person learning came days after the death of James Beckers, a beloved bilingual teacher at Cochran Elementary School.

The Beckers family wrote online that he was diagnosed COVID-19 on Sept. 9 and “fought really hard for 21 days in the ICU."

Jaqueline Martinez taught at the same school Beckers did last year.

“He was always very happy and he always had a good attitude about everything I don't think I ever heard him complain,” Martinez said.

It's unclear if Beckers contracted the virus at school.

His family said he was diagnosed the day after Dallas began virtual learning on Sept. 8.

“I can't help but wonder if Mr. Beckers would still be here had he not been instructed to go back to campus,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she's raised concerns about poor air quality at Cochran Elementary School in the past. She said she resigned last week after her request to continue teaching online was denied.

“Our schools are not ready to have people back in them in my opinion,” Honea said.

Honea said she’s concerned about more teachers getting sick.

“It’s almost like people feel like they’re sitting ducks because they don't feel like they have enough information and they don't want to be there,” Honea said.

In a statement, Dallas ISD expressed condolences to the Beckers family adding, "Such news is especially disturbing during this unprecedented time. Please know that Dallas ISD remains committed to the health and safety of every student, staff, and family, and we will continue to be diligent in requiring masks, frequent hand washing and deep cleaning every facility.”

Dallas ISD said about half of its 150,000 students were expected to return to face-to-face learning.

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