WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers' Union continued to call for the delay of in-person learning by staging a demonstration outside Mayor Muriel Bowser's home on Saturday. The mayor hopes to reopen public schools for hybrid learning by Nov. 9.
With a deadline Monday to return a survey dealing with whether teachers are open to in-person learning, union members headed out to the streets to let district leaders know their concerns.
Washington Teachers' Union President Elizabeth Davis was joined by around two dozen teachers and parents for a car caravan that stopped at multiple schools and the homes of D.C. Council members.
Davis said that teachers felt unsafe about returning to classrooms as the pandemic continued to unfold in the region and around the country.
"Our teachers are ready to return for in-person teaching," she said. "They simply want the city and school district to make it safe for them to do so."
The car caravan ultimately led to a gathering of union members outside Mayor Muriel Bowser's home on Saturday.
Some waived signs as others chanted and spoke into a megaphone about their concerns, with the mayor inside her residence at the time.
"This right now is us just trying to have a conversation with her," David Ifill, a music teacher at Brookland Middle School, said. "I know she wants the economy to get back but not at the expense of teachers' lives.”
Multiple teachers who spoke to WUSA 9 voiced frustration with needing to complete a survey about whether or not they could return for in-person teaching.
Some expressed concerns about needing to share medical information with the district while others believed leaders were rushing the reopening.
"It’s not time to go back right now," Brooke Edgecombe, a teacher at Roosevelt STAY Opportunity Academy. "I’m happy to go back in February, not now.”
The Washington Teachers' Union also brought up worries with cleaning and safety guidelines inside of schools, with faulty HVAC systems being a primary concern.
Davis said if the union's concerns weren't properly investigated, it could lead to more cases of coronavirus in the region.
"The realities that existed before the pandemic were ventilation systems that didn’t work. Windows that won’t open. Classrooms that won’t allow more than six or eight kids if they socially distance," she said. "Teachers and parents do not simply want to rely on the word of the mayor or the chancellor."
Moving forward, the teachers hoped the mayor would reconsider opening schools for in-person learning and not require staff to complete surveys about their medical profiles.
"We need to stay closed until the winter is over," Edgecombe said. "The flu is coming."
"Some of us have preexisting conditions," added Ifill. "It is just not the time right now.”
WUSA 9 reached out to the mayor's office for comment on this story but did receive a response.