NEISD has not provided a safe environment for staff, students alleges TSTA grievance

Grievance alleges NEISD ‘has not provided a safe environment'

Courtesy: NEISD.
Courtesy: NEISD.

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas State Teachers Association has filed a grievance with the North East Independent School District on behalf of the North East Education Association (NEEA).

According to the filing, the NEEA cites the decision to direct “teachers and support staff to return to campuses to work in the unsafe conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic” as the reason for the grievance.

“The district administration has not provided a safe environment for our members, other district educators and students and has directed us to work in unsafe conditions,” said middle school social studies teacher and NEEA President Adonis Schurmann. “Safety for our students, school employees and their families must come first.”

Key dates mentioned in the grievance filing:

  • Oct. 9 - NEISD superintendent Sean Maika told parents they could send their students back to school due to a decline on the School Risk Level scale
  • Oct. 12 - School Risk Level “raised to high moderate on the scale”
  • Oct. 19 - Maika, authorized any/all students desiring to return to NEISD campuses an open invitation to return

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced during a daily briefing on Oct. 12 that the risk level went from low to moderate after the COVID-19 positivity rate jumped up to 5.8%, up from 4.9% the previous week.

The NEEA states that “the school district’s mandate that our members work in an environment where they may be exposed to COVID-19 may cause a permanent or long-lasting effect upon their health and the public," according to the grievance.

The filing notes that while the moderate COVID-19 risk is on the lower end of the school risk level scale, “COVID-19 is still NOT stable in Bexar County, and fully opening schools goes against recommendations from Bexar County Metro Health and Bexar County Executive Order.”

Schurmann is concerned that social distancing will not be possible at many schools and said many students will be only two or three feet apart without plexiglass barriers, according to the TSTA. Schurmann also “noted that many classrooms either do not have windows or have windows that cannot be opened, despite the recommendations from health care experts for adequate ventilation.”

The grievance filing from the NEEA asks that class sizes be limited to 12 students to ensure social distancing, that social distancing be enforced throughout all campuses, that masks be required for all employees and that all employees be provided with “adequate personal protective equipment.”

“Our members understand the challenges that the school district is currently facing in order to provide an education to the students of NEISD,” the filing states. “However, the employees who actually help to provide this education to the students must be protected and/or provided with alternative ways in order to do so.”

Currently, NEISD is in phase five of a back-to-school plan and the grievance requests that the district roll back to phase three. Phase five allows all students back in the classroom and phase three allows no more than 15 students per classroom. Click here for the full details of NEISD’s phase-in plan.

NEISD spokesperson Aubry Chancellor provided the following statement in regard to the grievance:

North East ISD is committed to providing the best education possible for all children in our District. Not all students are thriving in a virtual environment as noted by an increase in failure rates. Additionally, more parents are choosing in-person learning. We must do all we can to ensure the pandemic does not become an educational crisis.

NEISD has a comprehensive safety plan that was developed with input from teachers, district staff, community members and medical professionals. Our COVID-19 numbers are posted weekly on our website, reported to the TEA and MetroHealth, and any time a confirmed positive case is reported at a school, all staff and parents are directly notified. We encourage everyone to continue to do their part while at school and outside of school hours in order to create a safe learning environment for all.

If the grievance issues are not resolved at the district level, the NEEA can file an appeal to the state education commissioner.

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