KILLEEN, Texas — The Killeen Educator's Association held a rally Tuesday night against starting school with in-person learning.
The group said the return should be limited to virtual learning until COVID-19 cases are under control.
"There is no data saying it is safe to return to in-person learning," KEA President Rick Beaule said. "Yet Killeen ISD is pushing full steam ahead to do just that, and that’s a major problem.”
The association said a survey of its members found 60% did not feel safe returning to in-person learning. Four out of 5 also said they are experiencing at least moderate levels of stress at the prospect of returning, with more than half experiencing high stress levels. And a third of those who responded said they are considering taking leave, retiring, or resigning, according to the KEA.
The "Honk for your Health" rally was from vehicles only. Participants honked their horns as they passed by the district office. The rally started at 6 p.m.
According to the group's Facebook page, the rally went from Atkinson Ave. at North W.S. Young Dr. to N. 38th St. and finished at E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.
“The horns you will hear show that there is nothing that educators want more than to get back to the business of teaching the future," Beaule said. "But there is no reason for them to needlessly risk their lives in poorly ventilated buildings in close quarters for 8 hours a day.”
The Killeen Independent School District return to school plan starts with virtual learning on August 17. In-person learning won't start until September 8.
Beaule referenced a University of Texas model released Monday that predicts Texas deaths from COVID-19 could triple in the next few weeks.
According to UT's model, Texas is predicted to see a steep increase in coronavirus deaths by the end of August. By August 31, the model predicts nearly 23,460 Texans will have died from coronavirus. As of August 10, 8,459 people have died, according to the State's coronavirus dashboard.
KISD's Superintendent Dr. John Craft said they welcome dialogue and want teacher's voices heard.
"We're being very diligent, cautious, in how we navigate this environment. I do understand the concerns. I want our staff to know and our students and parents to know that we're working around the clock to try and mitigate any risk associated with the pandemic," Craft said.
He said they are going to adapt and try to be as flexible as possible to the needs of KISD students and staff. Craft said there is always something more they can do and if it is feasible they are going to try to ensure their campuses and workplaces are safe environments.
He said the switch from face-to-face instruction to all virtual could be predicated in and around a spread. Craft said that decision would be made in coordination and communication with the Bell County Public Health Department.