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Teacher resigns in protest over school reopening plans amid pandemic

The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD board then did make changes, delaying in-person classes until at least Sept. 8.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Tarrant County middle school teacher resigned last week rather than face the unknown risks of returning to school with the threat of COVID-19. The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD school board later announced some of the changes and school-start delays she was seeking.

Rebecca Asher, a theatre and yearbook teacher for five years at Ed Willkie Middle School, made the announcement last Thursday in a specially-called school board meeting scheduled to hear input from parents and teachers about school reopening plans.

"I understand you have very difficult decisions ahead of you tonight," Asher told the school board as she took her turn at the microphone. Everyone at the meeting wore protective masks and the podium and microphone were wiped down and disinfected after each speaker. But in her allotted three minutes Asher announced her own difficult decision.

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"But I feel that the words this evening have fallen on deaf ears," she said of the several speakers who had gone before her expressing their concerns about school reopening too soon. "And so tonight I respectfully offer you my resignation for I need to take care of my family."

"Certainly was not a decision that came to me lightly," Asher told WFAA on Monday. She said she still believes she made the right choice and took the right stand to protest her multiple unanswered questions about COVID-19 precautions for students and staff.

"I just didn't feel the school district had adequate plans to keep both students and teachers safe."

After the school board meeting, trustees did announce some changes. The school year will begin online only on Aug. 20 with an option of in-person classes delayed until at least Sept. 8.

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"Administration will continue to monitor the local conditions surrounding COVID-19 leading up to the Sept. 8 date," an EMS ISD spokesperson said in a written statement.

"I truly am heartbroken and certainly did not want to put my administration in that position so close to starting school. I'm heartbroken but I feel I made the right decision for my family," Asher said.

And Asher says she is tired, even of people in her own extended family, arguing whether the COVID-19 threat is real. 

"I am disheartened and saddened and I feel abandoned by my own family and parents who believe COVID is nothing more than a mere flu and it will go away and teachers need to get off our butts and go back to work," she said in her address to the school board. "I am equally saddened by my school community who feels the same."

"Rather than bickering and being against each other we've got to find ways to work it out," she told WFAA.

Asher, who also has 20 years' worth of experience in corporate America, says she does not where she will work next.