High-risk teachers ask officials to consider their lives when deciding school year plans


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – As education officials across the state begin to sort out back to school plans for this fall they’ve carefully considered the lives and well being of children and their parents, but teachers feel left out of the conversation.

“They’re doing all of the planning for all of these things via Zoom and distancing. They’re not coming together to plan but they’re just going to throw us in and hope for the best,” David West, high school teacher, said.

In an open letter sent to educational stakeholders by representatives from SC for ED asked officials to follow CDC guidelines in a statement that said:

“We do not believe school buildings should be open until local conditions reflect the CDC’s Phase Two, which requires a total of 28 days with fewer and fewer cases of COVID infection in the area..”

SC For ED letter

According to data released by DHEC, charts show the exact opposite with projections that expect the case rate to dramatically increase by August 1. When schools closed in March, DHEC reported less than 1,000 cases of the virus.

“Even at the high school level, I think it would be difficult to maintain that social distance. School is a social experience for kids, we know that,” said Rebecca Melson, middle school teacher in Orangeburg, S.C., said.

If cases continue to climb, returning to in-person learning could be deadly for teachers with conditions that put them at high risk such as diabetes, obesity and asthma.

David West, a high school teacher in Lexington, has suffered from asthma for his entire life and returning to in-person classes is not an option for him.

“I’m genuinely vulnerable to not only a negative experience but actual death. I’m in one of the highest risk categories for an adverse experience with this virus,” West said, “It’s scary and I’m not the only person like that, children live with grandparents.”

In a survey conducted by SC for Ed to count the percentage of teachers with health conditions, a total of 7672 teachers responded and 4935 teachers said they have one or more conditions that but them at risk.

Sundra Proctor, a special education teacher at a middle school in Spartanburg District 1, said not only does she fear for the lives of her students, but she wants to protect the lives of her own children and will not send them back to school until it’s safe.

“It’s not only a dilemma for me as an educator but as a parent, I do not want to send my children back,” Proctor said.

Teachers and school staff who are at risk are pleading with officials to consider their well being, families and the risk associated with in person learning.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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