Head of teachers’ union says many not comfortable returning to classroom

Head of teachers’ union says many not comfortable returning to classroom

PITTSBURGH — The president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said many do not want to return to the classroom within the Pittsburgh Public School District.

“People are afraid. They are worried about their students, their families and themselves. It’s a health hazard,” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

She said they’ve told her they do not feel safe with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They also fear for their students.

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“They do worry. They worry whether they should go back, whether they should take a leave, whether they should have ADA — the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Esposito-Visgitis said.

Their concerns are the direct result of increasing COVID-19 cases over the past month or so.

There are teachers who have underlying health problems or have family members who do, teachers who are pregnant or their spouse is and 25% of teachers within the school district are 50 years old and up. 

In June, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers joined together with One Pennsylvania and the school district to begin putting together a safe back-to-school plan, but Esposito-Visgitis said the current COVID-19 situation is alarming and has changed over the course of time. 

“It was a terrific plan. I hope we can move to that hybrid model. I totally endorse the plan. Who knew our numbers were going to turn around so drastically?” Esposito-Visgitis said.

The upcoming school year won’t be 100% clear until a vote happens Friday.

Esposito-Visgitis said there will be a vote on whether or not the first nine weeks of school will be remote learning. 

Depending on what happens, teachers are considering not returning to school buildings. 

“They will have to think long and hard about whether they could or should return because of those health conditions,” said Esposito-Visgitis.

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