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Academy District 20 parents, teachers write open letter pushing for online learning

Academy District 20
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 11:55:10-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — The school year begins soon for kids across southern Colorado and some districts are starting to release reopening plans.

One of those, Academy District 20, gave parents two options to consider for the fall: have students return in-person or full-time online.

The district surveyed parents in June regarding these two options, but many say they just don't feel comfortable sending kids into the classroom with the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in El Paso County.

"It could change our plan. If we see folks are not comfortable doing in person than we need to respond to that," said Allison Cortez, director of communications for Academy District 20.

The district says they will be flexible with the community's concerns. The reopening plan includes guidance from state, local and national organizations.

Jennifer Gorbea is a mother and teacher at Rampart High School who said she was upset to find out that the school would be reopening with in-person learning.

"I was really sad to find out we were going back. It's not like I don't love my students, I love teaching but I just don't think it's safe right now," Gorbea said.

She was hoping the district would opt for online learning in the fall. She says she's worried about students not following the safety guidelines.

"I love teenagers, don't get me wrong, but when they don't know the severity or they think nothing is going to affect me, everyone is overreacting," said Gorbea. "I don't think we can overreact enough to this."

Anita Gandhi, who is a French teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School, says with the continued COVID-19 cases, she feels having in-person classes is not possible at the moment.

"If there is in-person instruction, how can each school be reinventing the wheel to determine what is the safest situation. It seems like a district-level decision and that is what we would like to see is that the district is providing enough information," said Gandhi.

Gandhi along with other teachers and parents drafted an open letter to the district, urging them to consider online learning until there are no COVID-19 cases for 14 days.

"One of things we have addressed in our letter is please let us start virtually, please give us the time to be prepare and be professional in our jobs. Please give us the opportunity to give our students a virtual learning environment that is meaningful and purposeful, " said Gandhi.

She says the group came up with the idea of an open letter before the district even released a reopening plan. It already has around 450 signatures from teachers and parents alike.

Teachers and parents behind the open letter say they don't want this to be an us vs. them situation, but a discussion that benefits the entire community.

The district tells News5 that they're aware of the open letter and welcome all thoughts and concerns. There is a meeting scheduled between teachers behind the letter and the superintendent Wednesday to go over everything.

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