AISD students call for safe working options for teachers during pandemic

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students from the Austin Independent School District gathered to advocate for more COVID-19 safety options for teachers on Sunday. Their calls include more opportunities for teachers to work from home.

They rallied with posters at the district’s headquarters in south Austin, right after the first week some students and teachers returned to in-person learning.

“I’m here to ask for resources and help so teachers at least have the option to stay at home during these hard times,” explained Guadalupe Torres, a senior at Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders. She was at the district’s headquarters a week ago for a protest as well. “They stand up for our rights every single day and to fight with them is what we have to do.”

The district returned to in-person learning on Monday, Oct. 5. Ahead of that day, officials released details about a phased-in approach to include COVID-19 safety precautions, which included limiting capacity to 25% in its beginning phase.

AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said at the time teachers and staff members would have to answer a five-question screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms and undergo temperature checks each day before they enter a building. 

As of Oct. 5, 1,605 medical waivers were requested. Of those, the district said that 1,125 of those medical waivers were granted, 122 were pending, 8 were denied and 350 were inactive.

“I had a lot of teachers that had to come back in and seeing the fear in their eyes as they’re giving classes inside of school, with their masks on, some of them had full on scrubs, it was very heartbreaking seeing someone that you admire so much feel endangered,” Torres recalled of the first week some of her teachers had to work from her school.

AISD told KXAN on that first day of the return to in-person learning that they mobilized 123 central office support staff to fill in gaps for unexcused teacher absences. As of that afternoon, 104 teachers were marked absent.

“I just hope that the AISD can see that it’s not only the teachers that fear, it’s the students that fear for them because teachers are not only people that go in, do their job and clock out, teachers are people that become family, have a passion and speak up for us and we are here for them as well,” added Torres.

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