Teachers and parents held a second protest in Decatur Friday against school district plans to invite students back into classrooms in coming weeks.
Several dozen gathered on the sidewalks near the City Schools of Decatur administration building to express disappointment in a decision they believe is unsafe.
April Biagioni, a mother of three boys, showed up with a cardboard sign critical of the math that Superintendent David Dude used in his calculation determining it was safe to return. “Show your work,” it said.
Biagioni plans to keep her children home and online but noted that teachers won’t have a choice.
“A lot of teachers have put in their letters of intent to resign," she said.
One of them is Shannon Staton, who taught second grade at Oakhurst Elementary School where she was the 2019-20 teacher of the year. Staton said she has underlying medical conditions that would make infection with the coronavirus riskier.
“This plan is dangerous for children," she said. Her husband works, and she can afford to quit but knows many of her colleagues cannot. She thinks school officials are rolling the dice with health, given all the uncertainty around COVID-19. “It angers me that people are willing to use children and teachers as guinea pigs.”
After the first protest two weeks ago, the district issued a public letter that noted a declining infection rate and survey results that said a minority of teachers felt virtual school was “as valuable” as in-person school though the vast majority didn’t want to return in-person. Most of the metro Atlanta school districts are also talking about returning or are beginning to return some students to classrooms. In each district, some teachers and parents have objected.
Meghan Conley is quitting, too. The Decatur High School special education science teacher has a newborn and fears for his safety. She said the district threatened her teaching credential if she quit before a replacement could be found. Special education teachers, not to mention science teachers, are hard to come by. “I freaked out,” she said. “This is just unacceptable.”
She said they seemed to relent after she posted her account of what happened on Facebook.
Sally Patterson was one of Staton’s students. Sally’s mom, Molly, was protesting in support Friday.
“Teachers are unhappy,” Patterson said, “and the district isn’t listening.”