The Little Rock Education Association, the former negotiating agent for Little Rock School District employees, has issued a broad statement from its president, Teresa Knapp Gordon, condemning Governor Hutchinson and Education Secretary Johnny Key for putting students and school employees at risk by forcing them back into schools during the pandemic.

The statement says everyone, including administrators, knows the situation is unsafe and worsening, but employees are being “guilted” into working or else forced to retire or quit. It says teachers must take action, but doesn’t specifically list any potential job action.

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The letter, in full here, says in part:

 

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We call out Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary Johnny Key. Shame on you both for putting our wonderful students at risk knowingly and purposefully. You know it is not safe. You are well aware of the risks. You have chosen to manipulate the data to fit your narrative and you have used our love for and loyalty to our students to guilt us into putting them in danger. Every child or educator who falls ill or dies will become your legacy. Shame on you for the social-emotional damage you have caused already to our educators and our students and the trauma that will be inflicted when someone they love dies because of your mandate to open schools for in-person learning while knowing that there is no way to make it completely safe.

The statement lists health issues in the schools.

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The LREA complains that the governor has waived class-size and other standards, but has not waived plans to proceed with interim achievement testing next week, including at home by parents who must watch an instructional video and sign a confidentiality waiver. What is the goal, the statement asks Hutchinson and Key.

The statement notes the high rate of COVID-19 in the state and Pulaski County and the worsening number of cases. Gordon closes:

Our positivity rates are not going to decline until we take serious action to stop the behaviors that are leading to the increase in cases. We cannot continue to act as if we are invincible. The educators must say, “Not our children, not on our watch.” It is time to move to 100 percent virtual and keep our children safe. Governor Hutchinson, we expect you to be a leader and do what needs to be done to keep all of us safe. Forget about politics and focus on what is right.

 

To date, the governor has signaled no willingness to consider all-virtual schooling, which is how the last school year ended. He’s placed a priority on a return to as much normal business as possible.

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The Little Rock School District reported four students and four staff members in quarantine in the district as of 3 p.m. Friday. The Health Department figures show, however:

I received a copy overnight of another school district noting a rise in cases as the school year continues. This from Russellville:

Little Rock Superintendent Mike Poore’s Friday video message urged good practices over the Labor Day weekend, as the governor did at his briefing Friday. It could be a make or break time for the slowing of the virus in Arkansas and further thought about virtual school.

UPDATE: KATV got a statement from the governor. He essentially told them to go to hell and said this is why people like charter schools. Suffice it to say he doesn’t speak for this parent of two LRSD grads.