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South Texas ISD teacher concerned about returning to campus amid pandemic

1 month 2 weeks 3 days ago Wednesday, August 05 2020 Aug 5, 2020 August 05, 2020 7:09 AM August 05, 2020 in News - Local

There are only a few days left until the start of the school year for many Rio Grande Valley school districts.

But while many students and teachers will be working remotely, South Texas ISD is requiring its teachers to teach classes online from campus.

That has one teacher worried.

"There's no reason to risk exposure over something we could easily do from home," said a teacher from South Texas ISD.

In order to protect the teacher's identity and not risk retaliation from the school district, CHANNEL 5 NEWS is not disclosing the teacher's name.

The teacher shared a letter from superintendent Marco Antonio Lara Jr. issued to all staff at South Texas ISD on July 30.

Part of the letter explains: "Although students will be receiving their instruction remotely, faculty and staff members will be delivering instruction from their campuses during this time"

In the letter, Lara explains teachers would be able to access technology and resources needed to deliver high-quality instruction from school.

But one teacher CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with fears putting one foot inside a school.

"I have a parent who just lives at home. She lives with liver disease and high blood pressure, and just a myriad of risk factors. She probably wouldn't be able to make it if I were to get her sick (with the coronavirus)."

Researcher Spencer Fox from the University of Texas at Austin said students and staff could be at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus by being on campus.

"Some of the riskiest counties (in Texas) are in the Lower Rio Grande Valley," Fox said.

Based on current infection numbers in Hidalgo County, if a group of 100 people were to return to campus for one week, there could be two people infected with the coronavirus. From 500 people, there could be nine cases on campus.

"Cameron County is even more risky right now," Fox said. "In a school of 100 that would be three infections on the first week. A school of 500 would be 13 (infections) and a school of 1,000 would be 27 (infections)."

These number are calculated by taking the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the county and dividing it by the county's population count.

In a statement to CHANNEL 5 NEWS, a spokesperson with South Texas ISD wrote: "Unfortunately, not all employees are able to work remotely, as their jobs do not allow them to do so."

Those employees include teachers. For one teacher at the school district, that's not a good enough reason.

"This is unnecessary," the teacher said. "That's very upsetting and it makes you ... feel undervalued"

South Texas ISD will begin online classes on Aug. 17.

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