San Antonio Teachers Caravan to Protest Lack of Protection as Schools Reopen During Pandemic

On Monday, San Antonio educators staged a car caravan to protest a lack of protection for teachers, students and their families as local schools prepare to open during COVID-19 pandemic.

The rally, which started in King William with around 50 cars, was set to drive to the Burnet Learning Center, San Antonio ISD’s central office. There, protestors planned to stage a “die-in,” symbolic of Bexar County's more than 600 COVID-19 deaths. The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel organized the rally.

Adrian Reyna, an 8th-grade social studies teacher and one of the organizers, said Bexar County still hasn't met conditions that would allow for a safe re-opening of schools in the fall.

“We are here to stand up for our students, colleagues and ourselves,” Reyna said. “The teachers are ready to work on day one. The city says everyone should stay at home as much as possible. But if the students are remote, to require teachers to show up in the classroom to teach remotely seems counter-productive to mitigating the virus spread.”

While the San Antonio ISD's rules allow parents to keep their children at home for fully online learning, teachers are still required to be in the classroom, even if their classes are 100% remote. 

In an emailed response to the protest, SAISD said it's making great efforts to ensure school starts safely.

“We are bringing back out teachers in a phased approach,” district spokeswoman Leslie Price wrote in the email, “starting with volunteers to come in August 17 and help us to evaluate all the safety protocols in place at the school.”

However, that timetable didn't sit well with Wanda Longoria, president of the Northside American Federation of Teachers.

’ be been asking our city to listen to our concerns,” she said. “We’re happy the Northside board and superintendent has listened to us and delayed opening until after Labor Day, but [SAISD] have been asking teachers to come in as early as last week.”

Health issues aside, the teachers and parents at the rally voiced concern over students’ access to remote learning tools, the internet and computers. SAISD states on its website that parents can contact their child’s assigned campus for “a district-issued device for report learning.” However, they said the district doesn’t provide instruction for parents who don’t have internet access at home.

There was also talk of a teacher’s strike at the rally, which is illegal in Texas for public school employees. Despite that prohibition, social studies teacher Reyna said some educators may feel they've got no other choice.

"A lot of folks have retired early or resigned, and a lot of folks are thinking about putting their careers on the line to stand up for what is right for students, parents, families and, of course, ourselves,” Reyna said.

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