Some Teachers Say Start of School Delays Aren't Enough

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School districts across North Texas are grappling with the choice on whether to delay the return to the classroom.

Even as some push the first day into September, some teachers are saying there’s not enough information yet to deem it’s a safe decision.

Ivory Bennett teaches 9th grade English at Dallas ISD’s James Madison High School.

She fears decisions that have been made thus far by leaders at the local, state, and national levels don’t do enough to protect teachers, staff and students.

“I don’t have to be a scientist or a medical professional to speak on this. The current numbers do not show a downward trend in the number of cases or the number of deaths, especially for Dallas county and for Texas as well," said Ivory Bennett.

Bennet's part of a growing chorus of teachers pushing for the start of in-person classes to be delayed indefinitely until there's a vaccine or the number of COVID-19 cases is deemed manageable by medical professionals.

The CDC changed its guidance earlier this week to favor reopening schools following a push from President Donald Trump.

Bennett says its not enough to convince her it's safe.

“In my opinion, this has nothing to do with your political party or affiliations. This is an issue of humanity. This is an issue of safety,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s job as a teacher and cheer coach is her only source of financial stability.

After 17 years in the foster care system, she says she has no one else to rely on. That means quitting, as some are choosing to do, isn’t an option.

“I’m going to subject myself to paying my bills and potentially exposing myself to COVID-19 again. I’ve already had it once. So what does that look like? We don’t know the long-term consequences of that,” said Bennett.

If she did, she’d be at a higher risk for being seriously ill as Bennett’s part of the one in four teachers estimated to be a higher risk of complications related to the virus.

“I myself am immunocompromised. I have type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes. And so it’s terrifying, right? So how am I supposed to really show up as my full self, my 100% teacher best and stand in front of a classroom of students and not feel fearful and give them the best I have to offer when I don’t even feel like I can give it to myself,” Bennett said.

While she hears arguments that students need the support the classroom provides, she argues it could also place extra stress on them. Working in a Title 1 school, she said many of her students are cared for by grandparents and live in communities where medical care isn’t easily accessible.

“At the end of the day, I don’t feel like our lives in the education community as teachers, as students, as support staff, as administrators are being valued,” said Bennett.

She believes the only way to do that right now is to keep classes online.

DISD could still make the decision to keep classes online only come September.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said they’ll be listening to parents, teachers and science when it comes to making that decision.

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