Bloomington teachers, supporters rally against in-person teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic
Bloomington, Indiana – More than 30 people attended a “Teachers vs. COVID rally” on Tuesday in front of Monroe County Community School Corporation’s Education Resource Center, where the school board meeting was being held later that same evening. A few organizers and teachers spoke at the meeting after the rally.
The group called for MCCSC to give options for teachers who don’t feel comfortable with in-person teaching, report the number of COVID-19 cases in the district weekly and address Personal Protective Equipment needs in schools.
A related petition that includes multiple demands for the MCCSC School Board of Trustees and Dr. Judith DeMuth, the superintendent, has more than 500 signatures as of Tuesday.
“Since teachers can’t officially organize or strike in the state of Indiana, this is a way of hopefully bringing some awareness to the issues they are facing in classrooms and online during the pandemic,” April Hennessey, one of the organizers of the rally, said.
She said an overwhelming majority of teachers that are part of the teacher’s union are uncomfortable with teaching with such a high COVID-19 positivity rate.As of Sept. 3, Indiana State Department of Health data reported the rate to be around 9% for Monroe County.
“Part of the issue is that not all buildings can accommodate all students with acceptable and safe distance,” Hennessey said.
Natasha Roe, a Latin teacher at Bloomington High School North, said she was at the rally because she’s concerned about the safety of in-person teaching.
“I’m a high-risk person,” Roe said. “My husband is high-risk. I have a child that has respiratory issues. I don’t want to get them sick and I certainly don’t want to get my students sick.”
Christine Davenport, an elementary school teacher, said she doesn’t take off her mask when she’s at home because she’s afraid she will get her 4-year-old child sick.
She said she works in three different elementary schools with more than 60 different students.
“I get to take my mask off in the car on the drive home and then I put it right back on when I get home,” Davenport said.
Hennessey said teachers are hoping the community will rally behind them and push the district and the school board to address the concern of teachers and be more transparent when making decisions.
COVID-19 isn’t the only concern teachers have. Teachers have had to make multiple adjustments and spend more time prepping for classes now that they have to teach both online and in-person students, Davenport said.
“All of it takes more time and all of it is exhausting,” she said.
Vanessa Domizlaff, a German teacher at BHSN, said teaching this year has been hard both physically and emotionally.
“I’m drained, I’m exhausted, I’m maxed out,” Domizlaff said. “I don’t know how long I’ll last.”
Multiple teachers spoke or wrote letters to the MCCSC Board of Trustees for the school board meeting, raising concerns they had about in-person learning.
“At this moment, we also see a great deal of discord and confusion in our community that stems in large part from a lack of clear communication, transparency and district-wide coordination across schools,” Hennessey said during the meeting.
She said teacher and support staff resignations are far above average when compared to resignation percentages in earlier years.
Superintendent Judith DeMuth acknowledged the concerns of the group, but said in-person classes would proceed to provide continuity for the students.
“We certainly want people to feel as comfortable as possible, as safe as possible, but at the end of the day, we’re offering in-person instruction,” DeMuth said.