Keep Gwinnett County Teachers Alive

Keep Gwinnett County Teachers Alive

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Ashley Newman started this petition to J. ALVIN WILBANKS

To the Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education-

Two weeks ago, you made the tough call. You chose for your 28,000+ employees and 180,000+ students to begin the school year 100% digital due to the increasing health risks of Covid-19. We want to begin by saying THANK YOU all for making the impossible decision of making our learning digital until it is healthy for students to return to the building. Showing that you are truly "people who support teachers" is vital at this time for the health and safety for all.

Unfortunately, in light of this wise decision, many groups of teachers have been put in an extremely difficult position:

Teacher parents of children ages 4 and under,

Teachers with pre-existing health conditions who are immuno-compromised,

Teachers/Staff who reside with others who are health/immune compromised,

and Teachers/Staff who have a special needs child.

With the new update from the Human Resources Department (July 21), we are being told that school-age children ages 5 and older can accompany their parent to the school, as long as teachers can perform their necessary duties on-site. However, on-site does not change the ability to perform our virtual teacher duties. In fact, many well known companies, such as "Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Capital One, Zillow, Slack, Amazon, PayPal, Salesforce and other major companies have extended their work-from-home options, according to the largest human resources organization, SHRM, and other sources." (Forbes, May 2020).

Teacher Parents of Children Ages 4 and Under
Many pre-schools and day cares in the surrounding area are experiencing heightened cases, leading to shutdowns both temporarily and permanently. The National Association for the Education of Young Children published a survey on July 13, 2020.They surveyed over 5,000 child care providers from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. According to their research:

"Approximately 2 out of 5 respondents—and half of those who are minority-owned businesses—are certain that they will close permanently without additional public assistance."

"Nationally, 18% of child care centers and 9% of family child care homes remain closed."

"Of those who are open, 86% of respondents are serving fewer children now than they were prior to the pandemic."

"On average, enrollment is down by 67%, with the average number of children served decreasing from 105 to 48 for child care centers and 12 to 7 for family child care homes."

"63% of programs across all settings expect to be operating at or below 80% of enrollment past the end of this summer. If they are correct, and if they don’t receive additional public support to close the gap, here’s what our nation can expect to happen: 

Program Closures By the End of July 2020: 7%
Program Closures By the End of September 2020: 22% More
Program Closures By the End of December 2020: 23% More." 

Only 18% of child care programs expect that they will survive longer than a year. (Holding On Until Help Comes: A Survey Reveals Child Care's Fight to Survive; July 13, 2020.)

If this pattern continues, it will lead to many GCPS employees with children ages 4 and under forced to resign or take extended unpaid leave to watch their children at home. This will in turn negatively impact our most important clientele- the students of Gwinnett.

We want to formally request that all teachers in Gwinnett County Public Schools have the option to work from the building or from home until in-school instruction resumes to support their families. We are taking the precaution for children ages 5-21, and it needs to be consistent for teachers of children ages 4 and under, as well as our teachers who are at higher risk with pre-existing conditions, teachers caring for those with pre-existing conditions, and teachers with children with Special Needs.

In the Move to Digital Instruction notice sent out July 20th by GCPS, it stated that "For some employees, reporting to school may be difficult for a number of reasons. Principals will work with the staff members at their school to address individual concerns and make accommodations where possible. Those who are allowed to work from home will be expected to come to the school periodically to work with other school staff and leaders." Unfortunately, the final bolded statement that was included in the release to all GCPS employees has since been REMOVED for the GCPS website version, without any regard to acknowledge this change in support for educators' families publicly.

Many of us have taken the opportunity to reach out to our principals, who directed us to the Leave office. We spoke to our representatives with our valid concerns, and they spoke with their supervisor, who shared a consistent message: "There is no stay at home option at this time."

This leaves us left to send our children to preschool or daycare in the hopes that that they will not face an outbreak in their childcare buildings, leaving us to go home to care for our children and work-at-home anyway. This leaves those who have pre-existing health conditions in a position to risk their immune systems on a daily basis in our buildings with interactions of 100+ coworkers and staff children. This leaves those who care for those with pre-existing conditions at risk of bringing the virus home. This leaves those with children with Special Needs without the proper support for their children.  

A poll conducted on the Gwinnett Educators for Equity and Justice page this week asked the question: Are you a GCPS educator/ staff member and have elementary aged children or younger?
As of July 23rd, 112 votes answered "Yes, I am a GCPS educator/staff member with elementary aged children or younger." 142 voted no. That is an impact of 44% of educators surveyed with the choices of risking our child's health in a preschool or daycare or keeping our job. I am one of many of your employees facing this choice between the health of our families and the financial security of our careers. As of July 21, 2020, the CDC states that "If you are unable to stay home with your child while school is out, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide child care. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (older adult, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children’s contact with other people." (Help Stop Spread of Covid-19 in Children: Tips to Protect Children During a Covid-19 Outbreak). However, many of us do not have these family resources to rely on like the experts are suggesting. 
We know that many other large, difficult decisions are stemming from the choice of 100% digital. But letting us work from home is not one of them.

We can have our collaborative planning meetings through Google Meet or other video platforms-at home.
We can record live lessons for our students-at home.
We can clock in one of the countless employee apps to verify hours-at home.
We can set up digital classrooms with the necessary resources-at home.
We can maintain the Promise of Gwinnett-at home.
We can provide a World-Class education-at home.

As of August 1st, 3 confirmed and ten potential schools have had outbreaks of Covid-19 cases, with entire administrations and grade level teams sent home to quarantine. Inconsistent protocols across local schools are leaving teachers reporting improper or no mask-wearing, as well as recalled hand sanitizer being the only available in the building. Socializing, team meetings, and entire faculty meetings are taking place without social distancing or masks. The options for in-person open house for different grade levels heighten the risk of viral exposure. These inconsistencies leave the potential rate of exposure to vary significantly by school, as well as exposes educators even more unnecessarily during digital learning. Many of your dedicated educators have been forced to resign since their leave requests have been denied, with the only option being "unpaid and not job secured", according to the Leave Department. We need this change to work from home for our lives. For our families' lives. Make the change, before educators' deaths are on your hands. 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!
At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!