Actions

'It's not how I planned to go out:' COVID-19 concerns prompt Pueblo School District 60 teacher to retire early

Cheryl Hudgens has taught in Pueblo School District 60 for more than 20 years.
Cheryl Hudgens
Posted at 7:19 PM, Jul 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 16:21:38-04

PUEBLO — As schools plan to reopen in the fall, some teachers that are concerned with their district's reopening plan have chosen to retire rather than return back to school.

Cheryl Hudgens has taught in Pueblo School District 60 for more than 20 years. She said when the district released it's reopening plan Thursday night, she made the difficult decision to retire the next day.

"I had planned on going back, but after I heard the three and a half hour board room meeting and plan," said Hudgens. "I don't personally want to be a face to face teacher and I was in a position to retire. I was very torn when I had to call my principal and tell him that I was retiring because it was not how I planned to go out."

The district's plan involved a mixture of in-person, hybrid, and online learning. The plan took into account the results of a summer survey that included nearly 4,000 responses from D60 families, in which 87% of households indicated a preference for in-person instruction or a hybrid of in-person instruction and distance learning.

Hudgens says she was hoping the district would opt for online learning in the fall, especially with the rise in COVID-19 cases. She says while the district's 22-page plan was well thought out, there were concerns that needed to be addressed in order for her to return to her classroom.

She says the district's decision to meet over ZOOM rather than in-person also bothered her.

"They're deciding my fate as a teacher and they're doing it all virtually. They're not even social distancing six feet away, but want me to go back as a teacher," said Hudgens.

Hudgens says she was concerned with the district's decision to handle sick teachers and children case by case.

"Several board members asked what if a teacher gets sick, what if a child gets sick and they have to quarantine," said Hudgens. "The answer that they gave was that is a case by case thing and we will deal with it case by case. They're going to be dealing with it on a case by case basis, I understand that, but COVID as I understand it spreads in many different ways."

Hudgens also worries about how the district will maintain the mask rule, especially with the younger children.

"When they lose it, when it breaks, when it becomes a play toy. I've taught long enough to know that extra stuff becomes play toys," said Hudgens.

She says it would have been hard for her to follow the social distancing guidelines since she likes to be close to her students.

"It was going to be hard for me to adhere to the six feet away. When I see people, I want a handshake, I want a hug, and you can't," said Hudgens.

While she will miss her students and co-workers, as an older adult she didn't want to risk her health going back to school

"My main decision to retire was when I talked it out with my husband. I said I have given my blood, sweat, tears, and thousands of dollars to my students and I would do it all over again, but I'm not willing to give my life to the district," said Hudgens.

She doesn't know what's next, but she'd like to volunteer to teach in the future. Her advice to parents is to make the best choice for you and your family.

News 5 reached out to Pueblo School District 60 for comment.

"COVID-19 has created uncertain times and we respect that our teachers may have to make personal decisions that are in the best interest for themselves and their families as we work towards returning to school."
Pueblo School District 60