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Teacher survey reveals alleged COVID-19 violations in schools across the state

The Texas State Teachers Association says a new report on a survey from its members shows concerns about safety conditions in schools remains high.

DALLAS — Updated to include a statement from Garland ISD.

School districts across North Texas have been detailing reopening plans in light of COVID-19 for weeks. Many have produced videos showing the lengths taken to spray down buildings and add partitions in classrooms.

”When everybody started talking about back to school and planning, we were adamant that we needed to do so in a safe manner,” said Ovidia Molina, President of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA).

In a statewide report the TSTA released this week, its members outlined a variety of COVID-19 violations and concerns in a survey. It includes issues educators and other school staffers are allegedly witnessing on campuses across the state.

”We were asking questions about protective equipment, rules that were going to be put in place, funding that was going to be needed and [the need for] more personnel,” Molina explained.

The TSTA said nearly 700 of its members from 135 school districts took the online survey. It sent WFAA the results from three school districts in the Dallas area.

The data shows the most complaints from Dallas ISD include:

  • Inadequate protective supplies
  • Insufficient accommodations for high-risk employees or family members
  • Inadequate district sick leave policies
  • Inadequate classroom social distancing

"We all have a voice," Molina added. "We want to be heard."

In Garland ISD, the survey revealed workers are most complaining about:

  • Insufficient accommodations for high-risk employees
  • Non-compliance with mask mandates
  • Inadequate classroom social distancing
  • Inadequate access to cleaning/sanitation supplies

"We know what happens in our schools," Molina said.

The TSTA survey reveals there are similar complaints in Grand Prairie ISD. The report shows top concerns there include:

  • Inadequate classroom social distancing
  • Inadequate ventilator or ventilation equipment
  • Inadequate mitigation policies for lunch or transportation
  • Lack of health/safety policy enforcement

Molina says the TSTA wants administrators to step up for their school employees.

Some school districts are responding to the TSTA’s controversial report.

In a statement, Dallas ISD said the district is prepared with the appropriate PPE and is following Center for Disease Control and local health guidelines.

"The ever-changing environment allowed district administration to review and ultimately approve more flexible work considerations for staff who may have reasons to seek those options," the district said in a statement.

Grand Prairie ISD points out in addition to a safety plan, it’s produced a variety of videos demonstrating safety protocols. It said it has been working with staff and teachers to develop the learning options that are in place, which follow the county and Texas Education Agency guidelines.

"While there were no specific instances or situations reflected in the TSTA survey, we do appreciate the opportunity to be in dialog with our staff and community during this pandemic to discuss and find ways to improve our service," the district said in a statement. 

The district also said their maintenance team is working to improve HVAC and filters.

Garland ISD is also responding to the TSTA report. The school district recently had a meeting with a representative from the TSTA. 

Garland ISD’s statement added:

Garland ISD has taken a proactive and unified approach with the safety of students and staff as its top priority. GISD administrative staff meet regularly with the Garland Education Association (GEA) president and the state TSTA representative to share ideas and to discuss and resolve concerns. At the most recent meeting with GEA and TSTA on September 4, the team worked through COVID-19 challenges and solutions.  

As a result of the meeting, GISD posted a list of COVID-19 Champions on the district website. This allows campus and department staff to directly contact their Champion to help resolve questions, concerns or needs. The district also updated cleaning protocols and provided additional PPE equipment to campuses that were low on supplies. The district’s extensive health and safety protocols can be viewed in the GISD Reopening Schools Instructional Guidebook. The GISD Return to School video also shows the health and safety protocols in action.

Garland ISD values its longstanding, positive relationships with GEA and TSTA – ones that are based on mutual respect and collaboration.

The TSTA says its representatives will continue speaking with school administrators across the State of Texas, while urging citizens and school employees to vote in upcoming elections.