Alexis Harding is a third grade school teacher. She loves her job and students, but the pandemic has transformed the hands on job into one done on a computer screen.
She misses the human connection.
“I miss my students,” she says through tears.
But Harding is adjusting to the virtual classroom. She’s spent countless hours building an online classroom that’s interactive and fun for her students.
With school just a couple of weeks away, the Coachella Valley Unified School District, where she works is requiring teachers go back to school and teach the virtual classes from classrooms. Something that she and many other teachers say should be a choice.
Harding says this decision if implemented will prolong the pandemic, “The key to getting back to school as quickly as possible is to stop the spread of the virus and staying at home is one of the best things that we can do.”
Carissa Carrerra, the president of the Coachella Valley Teachers Association says while the teachers may be isolated in classrooms they still have to share common areas like restrooms leaving them exposed to a virus that can be deadly. A virus that can be taken home to their families.
“You’re asking them to choose basically between going to school at the site for no reason and protecting their loved ones,” says Carrera adding that no one should have to make that choice.
She says that some of the teachers the district is asking to go back to the classroom have already lost loved ones to the virus, “they’ve seen it firsthand and they’re terrified.”
Carrera says the district feels this is about accountability, but she says other districts in the valley, like Palm Springs Unified are allowing this choice because they support their teachers.
She says instead of going door to door checking on teachers during a pandemic, technology makes it easy for them to check on teachers and make sure they’re doing their jobs, “It doesn’t change the ability to hold teachers accountable to do their jobs.”
Dr. Maria Gandera, the superintendent of CVUSD tells us they cannot comment during negotiations but added the following:
“… the district’s priority is in ensuring the safety of their employees as they provide rigorous instruction to our students. We have ample PPE supplies and developed procedures and protocols that were developed by a task force that included parents, teachers, classified personnel, and administrators.”
Carrera says they all want accountability and teachers who don’t meet the expectations of at home, online teaching should be sent back to teach in the classroom.
Carrera and Harding say the district should trust and support their teachers during a time of loss and hardship for everyone.
“The bottom line is that our district needs to show that we can be treated like professionals,” says Carrera.
“It’s hurtful and frustrating that I’m not trusted to do my job that I care so deeply about,” says Harding.
The union and district will return to the negotiating table on Friday.
Carrera says if teachers are not given a choice many will retire, take a leave of absence or may vote to strike.