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Teachers raise concerns as Colorado school districts map out plans for kids to return to classrooms

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Posted at 6:31 AM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 17:33:22-04

DENVER — Across the country, school districts are gearing up for kids to return to the classroom, it's a patchwork approach, and as district leaders move forward, teachers are sounding the alarm on their concerns.

In the classroom and on the football field, there are worries and fears of the uncertainty that lies ahead when class is back in session.

Ryan Marini has worked in Denver Public Schools for nearly two decades. He is the head varsity football coach and a geography teacher.

"I don't think online learning is ideal for most students," Marini said.

He said that while he's concerned about students infecting family members after spending time in a classroom, he also worries about their mental health.

"Our kids are starting to get a little frustrated; there is just a lot of anger and sadness inside them," Marini said.

He says he's healthy but understands some teachers need more protections in place to feel safe. He believes district leaders will make the right decisions to protect school staff but says they will be tough.

On Wednesday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association hosted a town hall for teachers to express their concerns and ask questions. Nearly 400 people attended and raised concerns and questions.

The organization presented an outline they plan to propose to school districts. They also discussed creating partnerships with parents to increase their support for a safer environment.

A 7th-grade DPS language arts teacher who joined the Zoom meeting spoke with Denver7 but asked to remain anonymous. She told Denver7 she is in the high-risk category, but decided to return to teach because she was told extra precautions and measures would be put in place.

"My personal biggest fears are definitely the social distancing, definitely the lack of proper ventilation in over 50 schools without A/C," she said.

A live poll during the meeting ranked concerns, which were social distancing, testing and mask use.

"I think social distancing a kid is ideal, but that is nearly impossible with how our classrooms are set up," Marini said.

He said last year, four of his classes had at least 33 students.

While there are many concerns, Marini says his football players are his priority as they train to keep morale high after a fellow player was shot and killed at a house party in Montbello.

Marini says training for his players is staggered, the groups are small to keep everyone safe.