Paraeducators organize teach-in in protest of district’s hybrid-learning decision

An+educator+at+the+PAL-CWA+led+teach-in+talks+to+her+students+while+sitting+behind+a+sign+protesting+the+school+board%27s+decision+to+push+ahead+with+the+transition+to+hybrid+learning.+

An educator at the PAL-CWA led teach-in talks to her students while sitting behind a sign protesting the school board’s decision to push ahead with the transition to hybrid learning.

By Andrew Phalen, Sports Editor

After the Lawrence School Board’s 4-3 decision to return to hybrid schooling, the Paraeducator Association of Lawrence last week organized a protest outside the district office opposing the vote. 

The Remote Teach-in for Safe Schools gathered paraeducators and teachers from across the district who supported PAL’s stance of online schooling until winter break. The demonstration’s goal was for the district to listen to their concerns and for a “real plan” to be put in place. The event lasted the length of a school day, from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 5. 

Paras and teachers from schools ranging from elementary to high school had their own opinions and personal fears. 

“I feel like the district members and the board members didn’t take what paras and teachers said seriously when they voted to go back,” said Liberty Memorial Central Middle School para Baileigh Sougey. “I feel like I’m being put at risk unnecessarily, that there’s evidence that suggests that people will die if we reopen schools, and I don’t want to be one of them.” 

Lawrence High School work experience coordinator Matt Klein also attended. 

“I just wanted to show support for paraeducators, and you know there’s a lot of unanswered questions about what hybrid looks like, especially for them, and I think we deserve to have those questions answered before we go back into the school and risk our health,” Klein said. “We want to be able to support the best, optimal learning environment for all of our students, and I don’t think we know what that looks like.” 

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis released a statement saying he respects the right of staff to protest and said the district will “keep student and staff safety at the forefront of our planning.”

He said it was important to know that he also hears from staff members parents and students who are eager to return to school.The best model of education is to have our scholars in front of our teachers on a full-time basis,” he said. “We understand that we are in a pandemic and must consider the data and science around the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Our hybrid learning plan is a start. It takes into account the Douglas County School Reopening guidance.”

The current phase of reopening — yellow — allows for hybrid instruction.

“We feel confident that our plans mitigate risk and will support a safe return to school,” Lewis said. “The district will continue to communicate with and consider the input of our staff and school families so we can make the best decisions possible for our students.” 

Lawrence Public Schools is set to begin the hybrid model on Oct. 19 with a phased-in approach. Middle-school students will be in the building two days a week and high-school students will be in the building for one day a week.

“The main concern that I have is just we’ll only get about the same quality of education, but we’ll have much higher risk for everybody, and it only seems like a matter of time before there’s outbreaks and we have to be sent back,” said Billy Mills Middle School choir teacher Garrett Viets. “A lot of us feel like we are being told to risk our lives but not for any good reason.”