Shelby County teachers union says hundreds could retire if forced to return to in-person teaching

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:14 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County teachers union claims 300 teachers are prepared to walk off the job Monday if they are forced to return to in-person classes amid the pandemic.

The Memphis-Shelby County Education Association says their members feel unprotected, unsupported and unheard.

The union held a news conference Wednesday after Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray announced virtual learning ends Monday.

They say schools are not sanitary enough and they say they were not given a choice whether to return or work from home.

They say some teachers have co-morbidities, cited Cummings Elementary with 19 coronavirus cases and say the mother of a teacher-caretaker there is now on a ventilator.

Union leaders acknowledge Ray was the last holdout in the state. SCS Spokesperson Jerica Phillips says Ray is in constant communication with teachers, the rate of infection is going down and teacher vaccinations open as soon as this weekend. She says the district was facing legislation for a state takeover to mandate the end of virtual learning.

Related | First of SCS elementary teachers receive COVID-19 vaccine

“We consider it highly offensive to offer us $1,000 to risk our lives and our family’s lives. So we’re asking, give us what you promised. Give us the vaccine. Give us a seat at the table,” said union board member Gloria Williams.

“We gave raises. That was something that was not done across Tennessee for teachers but we made it happen,” said Phillips. “We are offering a return bonus for teachers, we’re ensuring the safety of our buildings and our HR team is actually hosting 101 sessions. We want to hear from teachers.”

Phillips says the Human Resources 101 sessions start Friday.

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