Do you love your teachers, food service workers, custodians, specialists, and other school staff? It’s time to take action to protect them.
Lincoln Public Schools has produced a COVID plan that its staff are literally unable to execute when school begins on August 12. Their plan is only reasonable if our community transmission rate is low enough to safely open schools. Unfortunately, it is not. There is not one measure that puts Lincoln and Lancaster County in a “safe to open” zone. That’s not the fault of LPS– we all know whose failed leadership has landed us in this boat. But sacrificing our school staff to make up for those failures is not acceptable.
Here’s what community members need to do:
Show up and tell the school board on Tuesday that you’re worried for the safety of your favorite school staff (details on meeting below). Make a short video (think TikTok) and circulate it. The board especially needs to hear from current students and their parents.
Here are some reasons we’re worried:
Some staff are high risk and getting no real protection
The district has spent a lot of time talking about equity for students. However, where is the equity for the staff they employ? Around 15-20% of LPS staff is in a high risk category, due to age or pre-existing conditions. Some minor accommodations have been offered, but often they are only offered an unpaid leave of absence. Most of the staff cannot be without an income. A leave of absence also puts retirement and benefits in jeopardy. These are not staff who want to take the year off. These are staff who want to serve their students safely. But they are not being given the option to do so.
There’s not enough PPE
Sprayers for the bottles of sanitizer? Backordered. Lysol wipes? Not available and production won’t be up to normal until 2022. Face coverings with clear places so that Speech and Language Pathologists can show their lips to students on IEPs? Backordered. N95 masks for special populations? Not enough of those either. Staff are being sent into high-density spaces without the necessary supplies.
Staff are being asked to supply the gaps out of their own pockets
The plan, as written, requires a specific set of equipment for each classroom, including things like wipes, baggies, Play-doh for each kindergartner, and so on. These supplies are not being provided by the district. Yet they must appear in the classroom. So are teachers expected to pay out of pocket for these? Board policy does not allow teachers to “crowdfund” for supplies online. We should never be asking teachers to provide supplies for their students, even though we all know they do–but now we are asking them to provide even more, at a time of financial stress for everyone. Some schools have turned to their PTSO to provide funds for these purchases. But this, too, is an economic equity issue- many of our schools don’t even HAVE a PTSO and are unable to raise funds from their community.
Positive tests are already mounting up
Staff have been in the building three days. So far, staff in multiple buildings have tested positive, gone to quarantine, or are unwell and awaiting tests. How many staff members can we conceivably lose to quarantine and still staff the building? How will staff afford multiple quarantines if they are ineligible for worker’s compensation?
School staff need you
It’s time to put our mouths where we say our hearts are, Lincoln. Our school staff need us. We at Seeing Red have two “asks” for parents and students. We are particularly looking for some inspiring teenagers who love school staff and are worried for their safety.
- Plan to show up and speak for 5 minutes at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11th at 6:00 pm. Meetings are held at the LPS District Office located at 5905 O Street. Tell the board how worried you are for your teachers, food service workers, custodians, specialists, etc. Your voice matters. Make a well-crafted set of prepared remarks, picking one main thing to focus on in your talk. A 5 minute speech is a little over 2 pages double-spaced type if you want to write it out in advance. A main point stated right up front, backed by a personal story, is a great format to use.
- Make a short video (think TikTok, teens!). Spread it everywhere- twitter, insta, Facebook–and tag Lincoln Public Schools. Tag us or share it with Seeing Red and we will push it out. Those who make decisions need to hear from you, and these concerns should be discussed in the court of public opinion.
Do we love our public school staff enough to keep them alive?