Lawrence teachers protest returning to school buildings to teach students remotely

LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Lawrence teachers lined the streets for a car caravan Wednesday to call on the district to make their schools safer before requiring them to return to the classroom.

The state has deemed Lawrence to be a high-risk area for coronavirus transmission meaning case numbers and the transmission rate are trending in the wrong direction.

Students will be learning remotely for the start of the school year but, as of now, educators are required to come into their classrooms to teach.

“There’s nothing in my classroom I’m going to be using, everything is going to be online,” Lawrence High School history teacher Geral Hayes said. “I’m 67 years old and my wife’s a little concerned about me having to go into the building.”

The Lawrence Alliance for Education held a meeting Wednesday evening and is still working on what the upcoming school year may look like for teachers when classes start back up on Sept. 16.

“What is the big deal letting staff work from home and fulfill their obligations?” one of the alliance members asked.

The district currently has about 109 requests from teachers wanting to work remotely out of about 2,300 staff members.

Meanwhile in Andover, about half of the teachers refused to enter the buildings for a required professional development day last week. Instead, they held a strike outside.

The state ruled that strike to be unlawful Wednesday and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board has ordered the Andover Teachers’ Union to stop striking.

In response to this ruling, the union sent a statement, reading in part: “The CERB decision aligns with the Baker administration’s attitude of proceeding toward “normalcy” until something tragic happens. It calls for risk-taking over prudent planning, and the health and safety issues remain unresolved.”

Gov. Charlie Baker also sided with the Andover School District and said, “I think Andover made the right decision by arguing that a deal’s a deal, that there was an agreement that those 10 days would be spent conducting the training that was necessary for however that school district was going back in.”

Some Lawrence teachers said the ruling is not sitting well with them and that they support the teachers protesting conditions at their schools.

“They obviously want to be doing their jobs but they want to be doing it safely, and I think it’s a really good example of how actions are being suppressed,” Lawrence sixth grade teacher Georgia Godley said. “There’s a narrative about teachers not wanting to be teaching when they really really do, they just want to push for that safety whenever possible.”

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