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Denton educators rally for safer school reopening amid coronavirus pandemic

Protesters say the rush to reopen schools in the fall is putting kids and educators at risk of COVID-19.

DENTON, Texas — With the start of the school year approaching in Texas, educators took the streets Saturday in Denton, demanding more health and safety measures to protect teachers and students from COVID-19.

“They are in a bit of a rush to put kids back at school and for reopening,” said Queen Janata Montgomery, who organized the Caravan for Safe School Opening.  “I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Montgomery led more than a dozen cars through the town square. Many had signs painted in the windows, like one which read, “Why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated?”

While some North Texas districts have pushed the start of in-person classes back as coronavirus cases continue to rise, Montgomery said the rally is designed to amplify the voices of those who will be most affected whenever classrooms do reopen.

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“We tried to open up our economy and it didn’t work, so we don’t want our children to have those same repercussions,” Montgomery said.

The rally came hours after a larger protest at the state capitol.  Lisa Olney of Dallas joined dozens of other teachers Saturday in Austin. She suffers from respiratory problems and fears she will have to choose between her career and her health.

“I’m a teacher, so I live in a petri dish,” Olney said. “I’m not going to abandon my life’s past, but I’m not going to walk in there and die for no reason.”

Organizers in Denton are demanding the state allow teachers to separate kids into smaller groups, and allow staggered scheduling.

They're also calling for the state to get rid of standardized testing, and reroute testing funds to health and safety measures.

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They're also calling for a guarantee from state education leaders that teachers who become infected with COVID-19 and miss weeks or even months will be able to keep their jobs. 

The group also said children who have to attend classes in person should be limited to three days a week.

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