The Vista Unified School District is preparing for next Tuesday’s return of in-person instruction, but more than a half dozen teachers say the district’s preliminary reopening plan is dangerous and that they feel forced to return to the classroom.
The group, made up of middle and high school teachers, met in the administration parking lot at district headquarters Tuesday to share their concerns.
“For me, to do this feels unconscionable,” longtime Roosevelt Middle School Math teacher Kathryn Graf said. When the district gave her a choice between virtual or classroom teaching. Graf said she chose distance learning but was assigned both.
According to the district's plan posted on its website, there will be sanitation protocols in place at every campus, hand washing stations, specific entrances and exits, and students and staff will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
There’s one part of the plan, however, that some teachers feel doesn’t go far enough.
"All classrooms will have the normal amount of students enrolled. This means that while we will be following social distancing procedures, student seating arrangements will be less than six feet apart,” the plan reads.
At Rancho Buena Vista High School, teachers say a full class is more than three dozen students, and instruction can last as long as 90 minutes sometimes in rooms that have no windows.
“Our rooms are mostly under 900 square feet and you're trying to fit 38 kids in a class. As a high school teacher you can see up to 165 kids a day,” RBV math teacher Patrick Emaus said.
"This has a real potential to create multiple super spreader events, we feel, through North County and that is unacceptable,” Emaus added.
Guidance from the state on classroom reopening (page 12) advises schools to “Maximize space between seating and desks. Distance teacher and other staff desks at least six feet away from student desks. Consider ways to establish separation of students through other means if practicable, such as, six feet between desks, where practicable, partitions between desks, markings on classroom floors to promote distancing or arranging desks in a way that minimizes face-to-face contact.”
NBC 7 reached out to the district superintendent by email and phone Tuesday to discuss the teachers’ claims and has not heard back.
The public is invited to weigh in at this Thursday’s board meeting, when board members will vote on the final plan. You can participate both online and in person at Foothill Oak Elementary School.