Teachers in Little Rock announce they will not report to in-person classes

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A union representing Little Rock, Ark., teachers has notified the school district that members will not return to in-person teaching Monday, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

In its statement, the union said it had identified numerous unsafe conditions in Little Rock schools, including a quarter of schools saying people who entered the building are not consistently being given full questionnaires. The Little Rock Education Association also said 37 percent of facilities are reportedly not being properly cleaned and disinfected, and that numerous students and employees either do not wear masks or pull them down to speak to people.

The statement also claims that ventilation systems have not been upgraded even though poor indoor ventilation has been identified as a major driver of infections, and that immunocompromised staff members are being required to teach in person.

“This is not a work stoppage. We are completely and totally willing to work and serve our students virtually in a manner that keeps everyone safe and alive,” the statement reads.

“As we have stated previously, we understand that our parents need our schools to be open and we are committed to doing everything we can to avoid disruption to the learning environment,” the statement reads.

“We all want our lives to return to normal. That isn’t going to happen unless we take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are willing to do what it takes,” Little Rock Education Association President Teresa Knapp Gordon said in the statement. “If we do not transition to virtual instruction now, someone is going to get sick. Someone is going to die. We will not be responsible for that happening.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said in a statement that it was “difficult to understand the resistance to teaching in the classroom,” citing declining positivity rates in Pulaski County, according to The Associated Press. The state reported 742 active coronavirus cases in public schools as of Thursday, while the state rates seventh for overall new cases per capita.

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