Prince Frederick, MD, Oct. 19, 2020 – Today the Calvert Education Association (CEA) and the Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff (CAESS), the unions representing over 90% of staff employed by Calvert County Public Schools, issued a statement about school safety related to the coronavirus pandemic and proposed return to in-person instruction.
On Oct. 13, both CEA and CAESS were notified that the Board of Education was unwilling to negotiate safety protocol. The CEA and CAESS statement follows:
CEA and CAESS members, jointly representing nearly all school personnel, support having students return to school for face-to-face instruction. However, the leadership of the organizations feels strongly that to achieve this it must be done in a safe manner, consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maryland Department of Health and the Calvert County Health Department.
Our employee organizations have attempted to address safety concerns with CCPS internally and have been written off for months. We have been presented with inadequate measures or “opportunities to give input” with no real ability to affect change. At this point, staff and student safety requires formal negotiations to codify proper workplace safety procedures.
Uncertainty troubles educators and staff about the quality of ventilation, adequacy of supplies of personal protective equipment, consistent use of masks and prevention protocols, and the response and disinfecting protocols for positive COVID-19 cases.
“Teachers have been told that if a student refuses to wear a mask to do the ‘best that they can, use it as a teachable moment,’” said Dona Ostenso, president of CEA. “That’s just not good enough. A single container of 75 sanitizing wipes is not going to get a teacher through a week, let alone a quarter or semester. The safety conditions we work in are the learning conditions of our students.”
“Our nurses have not received properly fitting masks. Their jobs require them to be exposed for extended periods of time to individuals who could potentially be positive for COVID-19. This is unacceptable,” said Stacy Tayman, CAESS president. “Our building service workers have received no additional protocols in the event of a positive infection in our buildings. We learned that some of the new PPE expired several months ago.”
CEA and CAESS are aware of several positive cases among members of the staff that have been handled inconsistently.
“We understand that keeping COVID-19 out of our schools and buildings is an enormous undertaking. We also understand that we need to work together to come to an agreement on consistent, minimum standards across the school system to keep our staff, students, and community safe,” said Tayman.
The Board of Education of Calvert County recently approved a plan to bring grades Pre-K to 2 back to school on Nov. 9. The school system has proposed additional phases of returning students to in-person instruction over the next three months.