A group of protesters rallied Monday at the state Capitol in Jefferson City to demand that Missouri K-12 schools in coronavirus hot spots begin the academic year with remote learning. Kimberly Hanan-West, who has been a teacher in the Parkway School District in St. Louis County for nearly 20 years, organized today’s event.

Missouri protesters call for virtual K-12 learning in COVID-19 hot spots

“If you look at the data and you make data-driven decisions, you should see that cases rates are four times higher than they were in March and April,” Hanan-West says. “And therefore, we need a virtual start to the school year until cases see at least a 14-day dramatic decline.”

Some Missouri schools are starting fall classes online, while others are doing in-person schooling, starting classes after Labor Day, doing a mix of in-person and online learning, or a combination.

“This is not just a St. Louis County or St. Louis City problem. This could decimate educators, staff, students and their families across Missouri,” she says. “And I was telling someone else, if you look at Joplin and if you look at St. Louis, that should illustrate to you the way in which cases can rise rapidly and really, really hurt a community.”

The protesters also want teachers to have “the best PPE and infrastructure to safely return” to in-person classes. She says schools are not going to be “an island” that is safe from the coronavirus.

“Our leaders that decide that they’re not going to mask because somehow it’s part of their freedom to be unmasked, but I ask them where is my freedom and that of my students and staff members to be healthy and safe,” she asks.

Hanan-West says despite some teachers unable to do in-person classes, she does not think her school is running into a teacher shortage. She points to online classes allowing higher class sizes, which she says increases teacher workloads exponentially and provides less individual attention to struggling students.

About 40 people showed up to the event. She says the protest is one of many planned in Missouri.

The state is letting local school districts decide how to handle their reopening and whether to require staff and students to wear masks. Gov. Mike Parson is meeting Tuesday with some mid Missouri school officials in Jefferson City to discuss reopening measures. During a press conference today, Parson says most Missouri schools want to have classes in-person. He goes on to say that he worries about kids with disabilities and students from low-income families who don’t have as many options as other students.

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