168 MPS teachers didn’t report for first day of in-person classes

168 MPS teachers didn’t report for first day of in-person classes
Some Montgomery teachers protested the return of in-person classes, which started back Tuesday. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery Public Schools confirmed 168 teachers didn’t report to class Tuesday as in-person learning resumed across the district.

The number includes teachers who are on leave.

An estimated 60 teachers took part in a protest at the MPS central office Tuesday morning.

“No plan, no personnel,” one protester’s sign read.

The teachers who participated said MPS doesn’t have a plan to keep teachers and students safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They also contend face-to-face teaching settings are not safe.

Organizers say they weren’t given an option to teach in person or virtually and say some are undergoing chemotherapy treatments and have immune issues.

Teachers also shared concerns about the district’s aging buildings. They said some of the schools haven’t been touched since March and have black mold and poor ventilation. Some schools are still using window air conditioning units.

MPS Chief Financial Officer Arthur Watts addressed teachers, encouraging them to push the upcoming tax vote for MPS. Watts said some of the buildings are in deplorable condition, and the tax increase would help right some of these issues, including low teacher salaries.

School board President Clare Weil and Vice President Claudia Thomas-Mitchell attended the protest and assured the teachers their concerns were being heard.

Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore also said she will be visiting schools.

“I’m visiting schools this week and we plan to address any major issues that we possibly can. As I’ve always said, safety is my number one priority for everyone," Moore said.

The Alabama Education Association, which represents teachers in Alabama, released a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“AEA is aware of the frustration many educators have regarding their health and safety – and although today’s protest was not spearheaded by AEA, the association is focused on the safety of all education employees in Montgomery County as they return to work,” the AEA said.

The association said “local AEA UniServ Directors Quintlon Ross and Lynn Pettway have been in constant contact with educators and administrators regarding their concerns.”

Pettway said there have been many conversations involving teachers, support staff and the superintendent. She added that any school employees with concerns should contact AEA as soon as possible so the association can offer assistance.

“The AEA Legal Department reviews reopening plans daily and is prepared to file litigation against systems who are not in compliance with those plans and guidelines,” AEA stated.

On Monday, around 300 MPS teachers said they wouldn’t be in the classroom the following due to lack of planning and safety.

“This is hard not going to work because we work all the time,” said one teacher. “We do not have a concrete plan. We have an outline but then we have to fill it in. How in the world am I going to sit at my desk and teach kids online and teach a classroom full of students?”

MPS said about 11,000 parents opted to continue with virtual instruction for the second nine weeks of the semester. The school district has about 28,000 students.

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