January 11, 2022
At the Association Representative Council Meeting last evening Association Representative after Association Representative spoke up about severe health and safety concerns, including custodian staff shortages resulting in no cleaning or partial cleaning of classrooms and other areas, no soap in restrooms, no PPE at the schools, and other concerns at schools across the District.
This was documented by a school's Faculty Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes:
"Students forgetting masks. . .Contractually, there is no longer the COVID-19 Healthy and Safety MOU to provide this." (11-21 FAC minutes)
"Mask distribution issues - principal reported that they were almost out and likely wouldn’t need more since he was thinking the mask policy would change at the end of the month."(10-21 FAC minutes)
"COVID-19 safety: minimal cleaning; staffing shortage
Mask distribution issues -Send students to front office hub for masks, May not be an issue after 10/30; rotating custodians; problems worse on third floor; rotate where they start"
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One AR and teacher outraged by the District's failure to provide safe and healthy working and learning conditions spoke up on behalf of the other ARs and teachers on Channel 6 News .
The District's Communication Director, Scott Howat attacked the Union when interviewed suggesting we were not credible or truthful. He failed to acknowledge a problem or offer a solution. Instead he did just what too many District leaders do - he deflected, misrepresented and attacked the messenger. And this is why teachers do not trust the District to actually put protective measures in place. This is why we are fighting for an enforceable MOU. Below is the transcript of the interview:
Teachers Union Accuses Orange School District of Disregarding COVID-19 Safety Protocols
Matt Austin: Some Orange County teachers at their wit's end they say five months into the school year there's still no plan to keep them safe from COVID-19. They said they're even having to buy their own personal protective equipment. Glad you are with us tonight, I am Matt Austin.
Ginger Gadsden: I'm Ginger Gadsden, now a special meeting to discuss safety has been canceled. And as News 6 Nadeen Yanes, reports teachers are still waiting for answers and supplies.
Nadeen Yanes: We are seeing some of the highest COVID-19 cases in classrooms here in Orange County this semester. This while the teachers union and the district are at an impasse over COVID-19 Safety and Health protocols and a chance to resolve the issue was postponed this week.
John Martinez: Teachers have to beg, and our administrators have to beg for masks and wipes and sanitizer.
Nadeen Yanes: Third grade teacher John Martinez said he and his fellow teachers at a title one school in Orange County are forced to buy more masks and supplies on their own during yet another COVID-19 spike in classrooms.
John Martinez: So OCPS just likes to play the game of like oh we are providing masks. They gave us this and pretend that’s enough.
Nadeen Yanes: These grievances, Martinez said he's expressing not only individually but on behalf of teachers as part of the Union, now at an impasse over COVID health and safety protocols inside classrooms.
John Martinez: OCPS every day sends the message out to parents and says the infected areas has being disinfected and clean and everybody knows that works for OCPS, that it's not happening. One. Two, spend some money that you got from the federal government for masks, and sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
Nadeen Yanes: But OCPs school district spokesperson Scott Howatt says the district is doing all those things.
Scott Howatt: All of the safety protocols, the pandemic precautions are all there and we're continuing to do those things.
Nadeen Yanes: If that's the complete opposite from what we're hearing from teachers actually in the classroom. How do we solve that for our viewers?
Scott Howatt: So are you hearing that from the union or are you hearing that from actual teachers?
Nadeen Yanes: He is a teacher who's a part of the Union, he is saying that they get 12 masks a week and then they run out of those masks immediately. They are cloth masks so they don't fit the third graders well enough.
Scott Howatt: So we have plenty of masks in our warehouse so the school just needs to put in a request to the principal to have more masks sent over.
Nadeen Yanes: So again at yesterday's school board meeting they decided to postpone this special hearing by the school board with no future date as to when this will be resolved. In Orange County.
The masks should be in the schools and worksites -not in the warehouse. Hundreds of teachers do NOT have PPE, including masks!
OCCTA also wants to acknowledge that over that last few months high school teachers (not this teacher) who have spoken to the media have been hauled into their principal's office and quizzed and intimidated. District leaders need to learn to work collaboratively with the union and stakeholders to SOLVE problems instead of constantly covering them up. Educators will not allow their employer to deny their freedom of speech.
UPDATE - Thank you for all of your emails. We hope all of you with COVID-19 have a very speedy recovery.
OCCTA has purchased some children masks, adult sized masks, disinfectant wipes and sanitizers. Let us know your needs. President Doromal and Maribel Rigsby are delivering supplies to those who are at schools and worksites with no PPE.