Faux tombstones bearing the names of educators littered the lawn of an elementary school in Arkansas on Monday as parents and teachers protested against in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The “die-in demonstration” at Brady Elementary School in Little Rock drew dozens of concerned members of the community, KARK reported. They gathered with signs and placed faux tombstones on the lawn meant to represent a person who could die if schools reopen.
Parents, teachers and community members gathered on the lawn of Brady Elemenatry School in Little Rock to protest on-site classes during the coronavirus pandemic. The group placed faux tombstones bearing the names of educators on the lawn in an effort to illustrate lives they say could be lost if schools are allowed to reopen. Screengrab: KARK
Veronica McClane has two children, one of whom is set to start second grade in the Little Rock School District (LRSD) this school year, KARK reported.
“Opening up schools and sending over 400,000 students into buildings is absurd, it’s absurd,” she told the outlet. “Its a little morbid but we’re showing that people are going to die when we open these schools up.”
Community member Keytia Long agreed.
“Just a little unnerving to send your kids to school and you don’t know what to expect when they come home,” she told the outlet.
Drama teacher Lauren Lusk said she and other educators are wary about returning to school.
“The majority of teachers do not feel comfortable going back,” Lusk told KATV, “Now, that’s not to say that … we don’t want to be back, we want to be with our students. There’s nothing that says that we don’t, the problem is we want it to be safe.”
Parents of students in the LRSD must choose whether their children will attend school online or on-site for the start of the school year, according to the district’s re-entry plan.
Students who have or live with anyone who has underlying health issues are advised to choose the virtual option.
The district said “students who attend school on-site will have as normal an experience as possible,” adding that the district may make changes to policies and procedures “to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff.”
Students and educators will be required to wear masks “in areas where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” the district said. Schools will also provide masks to anyone who forgets one.
Demand Safe Schools helped coordinate a number of demonstrations across the country Monday, including in Little Rock.
The group is making several demands, including that officials hold off on reopening schools until scientific data supports it; that they provide equitable access to online learning; and that they provide safer learning conditions replete with PPE, social distancing and smaller class sizes.
Arkansas Commissioner of Education Johnny Key responded to those protesting in Little Rock by saying that he commends teachers across the state for how they’ve been preparing for the new school year, adding that issues of adequate PPE, social distancing and testing “are all legitimate concerns that require ongoing discussion,” KATV reported.
He went on to say that he’s read the demands of those protesting and that their additional calls for police-free schools and a moratorium on charter schools suggest “they are clearly politicizing the COVID-19 crisis to further a social agenda that most Arkansans would never support,” according to the outlet.
“At a time when students and families need the stability that school brings, events like the one today are counterproductive,” he said, KATV reported.
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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She has an MSt from the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.