The president of the teachers union for Carmel Clay Schools said he believes the district’s guidelines for reopening school buildings is a “very solid plan” that most local educators support, even though a union survey found that 62 percent of teachers would prefer to start the year in a fully virtual setting.
Pete O’Hara, president of the Carmel Teachers’ Association and a teacher at Carmel High School, said 11 teachers were part of a COVID-19 task force assembled by the district to determine the best course for returning to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a lot of input, and there’s been a lot of collaboration,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara said he’s fielded many questions from teachers about the reopening plan. Some he’s been able to answer, while others aren’t yet clear. He said a handful of teachers have decided to quit or retire rather than return to a classroom during a pandemic, but most plan to come back.
“There are teachers who are very concerned about going back, very concerned about the health of the teachers and their families, and the health of the kids,” O’Hara said. “So many of our kids could come to school and be carrying the virus and we don’t even know it and the kids don’t even know it, because they’re asymptomatic.”
Teachers with conditions that put them at a high risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19 are working with the district’s human resources department to determine how to safely return to work. Some of them will likely teach virtual classes only, O’Hara said.
CTA doesn’t know how many students will return for in-person classes this fall, but O’Hara said he’s guessing it will be approximately 90 percent based on data from other school districts.
As of July 21, CCS plans to offer virtual and in-person options for elementary and middle school students, while high schoolers may choose a virtual option or hybrid of virtual and in-person classes. O’Hara said teachers are prepared for the plan to change at a moment’s notice depending on the state of the pandemic and guidance from health officials.
“It’s a very fluid situation. Right now the plan is to go back, but that could change in 10 minutes,” O’Hara said. “Our administration is really good and they’re very prudent, and I trust that they’ll make the right call when it’s necessary.”
See the CCS reopening plan at ccs.k12.in.us/about/covid19-information.