Demand Safe Schools in Kenosha, WI
By Tanya Kitts-Lewinski, President, Kenosha Education Association
Editor’s Note: The following comments were presented to the Kenosha School Board on September 22, 2020 regarding the rise in Covid-19 in the schools.
KENOSHA, WI — My name is Tanya Kitts-Lewinski and I am a proud special education teacher and President of the Kenosha Education Association.
This week, Kenosha United School District (KUSD) experienced a surge in educator absences, causing several schools to pivot to virtual instruction to protect the safety of students and our community.
Kenosha isn’t unique. Schools across Wisconsin and America are in the same dangerous and untenable situation. Educators in Kenosha and everywhere want nothing more than to be with their students. But it is utterly unsafe to do so at this time.
Rather than receiving the same encouragement and support as other essential workers in our community, we have been blamed for nearly every single thing that has gone wrong throughout this global health crisis. Schools closed, blame the teachers. Taking necessary precautions to keep students and coworkers safe, blame the teachers. Educators are exhausted from bearing the brunt of this pandemic and from being forced to enter unsafe buildings that put our students, themselves, and the community at risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19.
Not only does KUSD’s Return 2020 Plan guarantee further spread of the virus, being forced to simultaneously provide virtual and in-person instruction is prohibitive to providing a high-quality and equitable education for anyone. No one is benefitting from this setup.
Every Kenosha educator is dedicated to our students and has the utmost concern for their health, well-being, and academic success, but we have to be alive and healthy to serve them.
Within the first week of in-person instruction in KUSD, there have been several positive cases causing a number of students and staff to quarantine. There are reports that there have been positive cases at Indian Trail, Tremper, Lakeview, Prairie Lane, Bullen, Strange, and Washington.
DHS released a reopening school buildings risk assessment tool to assist in making decisions about reopening school buildings during the pandemic. If the answer to any of the questions on the tool is “no,” school buildings should not be reopening until you can answer “yes.”
To date, there have been 159 violations cited by educators based on categories from the tool, with reports coming in from 23 different buildings. This reckless disregard for safety must stop, and this school board has the power to put the brakes on.
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