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Teachers resign as Queen Creek schools prepare to reopen

(Facebook Photo/Queen Creek Unified School District)

PHOENIX – Numerous teachers in the Queen Creek Unified School District have resigned as their schools get ready to welcome back students for in-person classes Monday.

Brad Charles, 58, is among the teachers who’ve chosen to resign following the district’s decision to reopen schools despite the state health benchmarks recommending against it.

The district is in Maricopa County, which has met two of the three benchmarks.

“I’ve had a lot of difficult decisions to make in my lifetime,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“But this is one of the hardest, because my livelihood depends on it. It’s uncertain times, and we’re not financially, really, all that well off.”

Charles, a science teacher at Queen Creek High School, felt that he had no other choice. He has type 2 diabetes, making him high risk for the coronavirus.

“My doctor recommended that if I had a class larger than 10-15 students, I should teach online,” he said.

“The district didn’t give me that opportunity.”

Charles said he doesn’t foresee his classes being small. But he can’t teach classes online because the district goes through a third-party for online classes and doesn’t use local teachers.

District data suggests Charles isn’t alone in his decision to leave the classroom.

More than 40 full-time and substitute teachers have resigned since May.

At least eight of them did so in the last week or so as it became clear the district’s governing board was leaning toward reopening schools for in-person instruction.

The board made it official Tuesday night, with a 4-1 vote during an emotionally-charged meeting where the majority of speakers urged the board to reopen.

There will still be an online option for students who don’t return to classes in person.

During the meeting, Queen Creek Unified Governing Board President Ken Brague said their decision was not made lightly.

“We’ve studied this,” Brague said. “We really, truly want what’s best for the students, and that has been our focus.”

For weeks, the district has been putting in place numerous strategies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

“We will use disinfectant sprayers and intensify our disinfect and sanitization efforts,” district spokeswoman Stephanie Ingersoll said.

“Face coverings are required in our buildings and on school property. Hand sanitizer stations are outside of all classrooms and will be mounted on the walls.”

She added there are plexiglass barriers in the district and school offices and the district has intensified the flow of outdoor air going into the buildings.

But as schools in the district get ready to reopen, Queen Creek Education Association President Jacob Frantz said that more teachers want to resign.

“Just the sheer amount of stress of this whole situation is making it unbearable,” the science teacher at Queen Creek High School said Thursday.

On Friday, Frantz submitted his resignation.

A day earlier, he said he knows of at least five teachers in his school alone who feel they are putting their lives or their families at risk by teaching in a classroom.

“It is a threat to a teacher’s life to go into these classrooms,” he said.

“The most concerned are definitely our high-risk people,” Frantz added.

“We have a lot of people with high-risk conditions, whether it’s that they’re older or they’re diabetic or they have lung issues or they’re a cancer survivor.”

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