Teachers and community members in Maryland’s Montgomery County who are unhappy with a plan to resume in-person teaching led a protest outside the school board building Tuesday, blaring horns and circling the parking lot in their vehicles.
The demonstration was livestreamed on Facebook by the Montgomery County Education Association, the teachers union representing more than 14,000 who work for the county. One speaker who did not identify himself said a safe and health workplace is a fundamental right, and called on a change to the current plan to welcome most students back into buildings starting March 15.
“The recently approved (Montgomery County Public Schools) reopening plan requires more space, more people and more resources than are now available,” said MCEA, which organized Tuesday’s car rally and picket together with SEIU Local 500.
“It’s ironic that we’re demanding safety while we’re standing underneath a flag raised half-mast for over 500,000 lives lost,” MCEA President-Elect Jennifer Martin said, speaking beneath an American flag.
“We will not sacrifice our health and safety. Frankly, we’re insulted that it was assumed we should just suck it up and obey the delusional, dangerous directives, MCPS must respect us, protect us and pay us,” she said.
Fourth grade teacher Donna Morales said she believes the school system has not done enough to address health concerns: “We cannot return to schools until we acknowledge the real health risks, instead of ignoring and minimizing them.”
The teachers union said it wants Montgomery County schools to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding the physical reopening of school buildings, implement a contact tracing and testing program, and provide all employees the opportunity to be fully vaccinated before a return to in-person instruction.
The county school board on Tuesday outlined safety protocols for when schools open. Face masks, social distancing and using hand sanitizer will be the main safety methods used by students and staff.
Montgomery County also is giving out thermometers to all families, and students and staff will be required to fill out a health attestation each week answering a series of questions about the individual’s contact with COVID-19, potential symptoms and whether he has tested positive.
The form will be provided in multiple languages.
As an additional safety protocol, the county plans “pool testing,” which will be a voluntary testing of asymptomatic students and staff on a regular basis starting March 15.