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Hundreds of Washoe County Teachers And Parents Protest Reopening Of Schools

Public schools in Washoe County are slated to reopen on August 17. In response, many teachers protested outside of the health district and school district buildings yesterday. They want the return to the physical classroom to be postponed, and they’re asking for increased safety measures when schools reopen. 

About 200 educators took to the streets protesting the reopening of schools later this month. They, instead, propose returning to schools nine weeks later. That’s something Matt Wiegand, a sixth-grade teacher at Pine Middle School, supports.

“I work with a lot of teachers that are over 60 and are immunocompromised. I don't want to go to any funerals this fall. That's not a good ‘welcome back.’ I have so many kids that are being raised by grandparents right now, and if they take COVID-19 back to their homes, there's a very good chance that their families could be destroyed,” Wiegand said.

Wiegand said school will look a lot different this fall, and he’s struggling to find ways to be engaging while limiting activities that would require students to share supplies.

“I've blocked off all my books and materials, my comic books, the things I use to help the kids with reading because I'm a reading teacher, that's all quarantined now. I don't trust myself to keep that clean. I just feel it's a big liability,” Wiegand said.

Teachers are also asking for clearer social distancing plans and assurance that there will be a consistent supply of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

Alongside the teachers in the crowd, were graduated high school students, substitute and retired teachers, and parents.

A woman stands next to a young girl. The woman holds a sign that says, “No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop us now.”
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
Sarah Brabo (right) will be homeschooling her daughter LilyAnne this fall. They both protested to postpone the return to the physical classroom, and for increased safety measures when schools reopen, in Reno, Nev., on August 6, 2020.

Sarah Brabo said she will be homeschooling her daughter this fall “unless they come up with a better game plan than sending my kid to school a couple of times a week in a crowded school.” She rejects the idea of the hybrid model currently in place, which will have students, middle school and above, spending half of their time on remote learning and the other half in the classroom.

Brabo’s 11-year-old daughter, LilyAnne, would have been starting seventh grade at Swope Middle School, but has instead opted for distance learning.

“I want to go back, but only if it's over a computer. I don't want to go back in real life,” LilyAnne said. 

LilyAnne is worried about other children’s lives, and her own.

“I'm a scholar, not a science experiment to be experimented on,” LilyAnne said.

KUNR reached out to the Washoe County School District for comment. The district released a statement saying it respects and celebrates the rights of the community to gather peacefully and is continuing to work on plans to reopen safely.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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