Teachers required to return to classrooms

District announcing that all staff must be in-person

In an email sent to district personnel on Feb. 24, Superintendent Anthony Lewis announced that all staff members will be required to return to the building by March 15. 

If a staff member would like to stay remote, they must have written documentation from a medical provider that proves a disability and details how working remotely would benefit them.

In a statement to the Free Press, Julie Boyle, executive director of communications, reiterated Lewis’s confidence in the safety of in-person learning. 

“These include improvement in the prevention of the spread of the virus in our community and schools, the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the district’s plan to vaccinate all interested staff,“ Boyle said.  

Kerri Hess, who teaches culinary arts, cares for an elderly family member. Because this does not fall under the ADA, she will have to return to the building for in-person learning. Hess has received her first dose of the vaccine, but will not have the second dose before March 15. 

In order to be fully vaccinated by March 15, staff members will have had to have taken the first dose by Feb. 14, over a week before Lewis’s announcement was made. 

“If I was a health care worker, I would expect that I would have to go to work and be around sick people,” Hess said. “I’m a teacher. That’s not part of my job.” 

Boyle also announced that as of Feb. 26, 71% of staff that had signed up for the vaccine had received their first dose. 

The Lawrence Education Association has repeatedly requested that the district wait to allow all students back to school until all staff members can be fully vaccinated. 

“Teachers are being vilified for wanting a safe working environment—for wanting to ensure that we do not contribute to the illness and death that threaten this community,” LEA Vice President Jeff Plinsky told the Board of Education during a Feb. 8 meeting. 

Several teachers declined to comment. However, others say that it is time to get students back into the classroom.

Kylee Johnston, an english teacher, agrees with Lewis’s decision. With the extra safety measures the district has provided, she feels confident that COVID-19 will not be spread throughout the building. 

“It’s a tough call either way, but I know that many students are struggling with being at home trying to do online learning and really benefit from being at school,” Johnston said.

K-5 students will be returning to the classroom full-time on March 15, while 6-12 will begin March 29.