Teachers protest outside district office about schools reopening

Teachers protest reopening plan

FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Teachers surrounded the Fort Mill School District building Tuesday in protest against the district’s plans to reopen schools in a few weeks.

The organizer, Ali Tracy-McHenry, says most teachers do not feel comfortable going back to in-person learning, but Fort Mill Schools says, it is doing its best to accommodate everyone’s needs.

“This is the first time I’ve seriously thought about resigning over this,” Tracy-McHenry said.

Teachers to protest school reopening plans

Previous video and pictures show 100 teachers doing the same in Rock Hill last week. On Tuesday, Fort Mill teachers will stand outside the building while the board decides when and how school will reopen.

In the Fort Mill teacher survey, less than half of the teachers feel safe going back into schools. Joe Burke, the Fort Mill Schools communication director, says the question was very broad and did not talk about specific safety protocols the district would take.

Teachers will ask the board to do virtual learning until it is safe. Those in the classroom believe parents and students have choices - send the kids back to the classroom or a virtual option - but teachers do not.

That is why these educators want the board to follow the DHEC guidelines and choose a virtual option until coronavirus cases go down.

”There’s no way to keep a class of 6-year-old’s separated throughout the day,” says Fort Mill teacher Katie Harris. “All of the ideal situations they’ve been giving us in practical use is just not going to work.”

Fort Mill’s board will also decide on the calendar again Tuesday night. The teachers protesting want the school start date to move to September 8th.

It is a time when teachers are fearing for their lives. Tracy-McHenry is one of them.

”It’s scary to me to have to choose between going to work and seeing my family,” says Tracy-McHenry. “There’s a line at some point and my family is the line.”

Tracy-McHenry is a special needs teacher at Nations Ford High. Her pride in her work is not overshadowing the dangers she says she could face if she went back into the classroom.

”I just hope people aren’t going to judge the teachers who aren’t willing to do that because of their health or their families,” says Tracy-McHenry. “It’s just an incredibly difficult and dark situation that we’re in and its heartbreaking.”

”I’ve never seen a situation like this where everyone is so divided. It really does put districts in a hard place to try to find a compromise,” says Burke.

Burke says the unprecedented times have districts making tough decisions too, but he says the board is doing the best to accommodate everyone.

”We don’t want anybody to feel like we’re just throwing caution to the wind. We’re trying to look at all the safety options for our students and our staff,” says Burke. “Both groups are important to us so we’re going to try to come up with as many options as we can to promote safety in our district.”

As the board discusses Tuesday night, teachers will be inside and outside protesting, making their voices heard and pleading for the safest reopening option.

”You think you’re alone in this fight and it’s pretty dark and you show up to see that you’re not alone,” says Tracy-McHenry.

The Fort Mill School board is having a meeting tonight which is one reason why the teachers are out here. The board will discuss the school calendar and vote on any changes to the reopening plan.

Clover teachers say they will have a protest Tuesday night as well.

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