I am writing, six-months pregnant, from my porch in Lusaka, Zambia, where I live and work.
I am a child of Winona and my parents still live in our childhood home where they have for more than 20 years.
My mom is a Winona Area Public Schools teacher where she has taught and my sisters and I learned for decades.
While it has its shortcomings, I feel lucky to have grown up in Winona and had the privilege to be educated by committed teachers who still remember me when I visit.
But today, I feel scared for those teachers. I called my mom this morning to find her dressing and packing to go to school. I was shocked. Given the dramatic change in circumstances, I understood the need to attend a few days in-person to organize and strategize; however, students have not attended class for over a week. My sister, a public-school teacher in Minneapolis, has worked from home since March 16. It is hard to fathom how WAPS can legitimize the decision to continue to ask teachers to physically come to school putting their teachers and teachers’ families at risk daily. Whether it is poor organization, mistrust of staff, or something else, this is not the time to stand idly by micromanaging teachers at the expense of their health. My mother is grandmother of three, one who is severely immunocompromised. She is one of the primary caretakers of her elderly mother. She is the wife and housemate to my father who has heart complications. Every day we ask our teachers to physically go to work, we ask them to risk their health and the health of those around them or to isolate themselves from their loved ones during this scary, stressful time. Every guideline says it is best to stay home unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. WAPS – given a myriad of online resources, you no longer need to see my mother and the hundreds of other teachers you employ in person. Yesterday was the day to organize yourselves and protect our teachers. Send them home. Keep them safe. Keep your community safe.
Taylor Yess, Lusaka, Zambia
Editor's note: After this letter was received, the governor ordered schools closed until at least May 5. WAPS staff members who are not involved in the district’s child care, energy workers or food prep could start working from home March 26. Some staff can work in the schools if they are more comfortable doing so.
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