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Teachers share concerns over TEA guidelines to reopen schools

"Kids need to be back in the classroom, we all know that. We want them there. We just want everybody to be safe."

DALLAS — One day after the Texas Education Agency released public health guidelines to reopen schools in August, teachers shared their concerns from having enough personal protective equipment, to being able to keep students socially distanced.

WFAA spoke with three teachers from Dallas Independent School District during a video conference panel Wednesday. 

Raul Avila teaches Gifted/Talented students at Callejo Elementary in Pleasant Grove. He said he was encouraged the TEA finally provided guidance, but said the specifics have been left to individual school districts.

A spokesperson for Dallas ISD told WFAA it does not yet have a date on when district level guidance would be released.

Avila said the nine-page state level guidance document provides an overview but is not complete.

For example, on page six of the guidance, when 6 feet of social distancing is not possible inside a classroom, the TEA suggests teachers increase hand washing and open a window. 

Angela McCowan, a teacher at John H. Reagan Elementary, said the guidance would likely be unworkable in several classrooms.

"I’m concerned because not all schools and classrooms have a window for you to open,” McCowan said.

Avila added many classrooms in older buildings don't have sinks to promote additional hand washing.

Dr. Patricia Doyle presented another perspective. The licensed physical therapist in the special education department said she is in as many as 40 Dallas ISD campuses providing therapy services.

Moving into the school year, she said the ability to keep detailed logs of every campus she visits, and when, will be critical.

"If we have to go back and contact trace, I have to be able to find out where I've been," Doyle said.

Rena Honea with Alliance AFT, which represents thousands of Dallas teachers and staff, said she wants the state to follow CDC guidelines for reopening, which includes seeing a daily case rate drop for at least 14 consecutive days.

"This is not a great time to be putting a lot of students and adults together in a situation that will be very difficult to control," Honea said.

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