October 1, 2020Christina Brey

Racine teachers demand immediate action to protect RUSD students

Racine teachers demand immediate action to protect RUSD students Featured Image

Local educators are doubling down on efforts to improve conditions within virtual classrooms, calling on district leaders to make decisions that keep students and staff safe.  

Racine Unified started the school year virtually because it is the safest option for students, but Racine’s educators say there is more that can be done. This week, they called on the district to allow all teachers to work remotely instead of requiring staff to report to schools to conduct virtual lessons.  

“The District should allow all teachers to work remotely, limiting the number of people in the building at the height of the pandemic,” said REU President Angelina Cruz, adding that seven teachers have tested positive in the past two weeks after working in the school setting. 

“Everyone wants schools to reopen safely, yet the district cannot control cases even with a limited number of teachers reporting,” she said. “The spike in cases clearly proves this is no time for returning to in-person learning if we care about students, teachers and families.” 

Cruz said Racine teachers are calling on the district to allow them to work remotely as neighboring districts like Milwaukee are doing. “This will lower the transmission of COVID-19 and expedite a safe, and stable, reopening,” she said.   

“Federal, state and local governments have failed to control the spread of COVID-19,” Cruz continued. “Elected officials have prioritized reopening restaurants and bars but have struck down public safety measures designed to keep students and teachers safe.  

“Racine Educators United joins other educators across the state in calling on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to immediately order all Wisconsin K-12 schools, colleges and universities to conduct classes virtually, with no face-to-face instruction until community spread of the virus is contained.” 

The educators’ plan calls for the state health department to require gating criteria for resuming in-person classes and to approve reopening plans for any school district, private school, college or and university. “This includes making sure the school has the necessary PPE and resources to accomplish the reopening plan,” Cruz said, adding that regular public health inspections are also part of the plan.  

The demands REU and other educator associations bring forward are to:  

  • Expand free testing which is accessible to all communities, especially low-income and black and brown communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, along with actively encouraging testing in these areas.  
  • Supply sufficient contact tracing for tracing and isolating individuals who are exposed to COVID-19.  
  • Realize 21 consecutive days of a downward trajectory of documented cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates (near zero incidence) in Racine County.  
  • Monitor consistently the reproductive rate of COVID-19 to ensure that the rate does not rise above 1, which would demonstrate community spread.  
  • Establish exact gating criteria with objective metrics and timelines to ensure schools reopen safely and that students, staff and families have clear expectations.  

“The district needs to reopen schools safely so that when students return to the buildings they are not sent home again,” Cruz said. “Currently, what we have heard about the district’s plans are either inadequate or unclear. 

REU’s Executive Board and Representative Assemblies passed resolutions in September to call on RUSD to meet the criteria of the Badger Bounce Back Plan and health department guidelines before reopening district schools:  

  • Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period; 
  • Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period; 
  • Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period; 
  • 95% of hospitals affirm that they can treat all patients without crisis standards of care; 
  • 95% of all hospitals affirm that they have arranged for testing of all symptomatic clinical staff treating patients at the hospital per CDC guidelines; 
  • Downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers calculated weekly.