More than 75 Franklin educators submit complaint to district after feeling unsafe working in schools

NOW: More than 75 Franklin educators submit complaint to district after feeling unsafe working in schools

FRANKLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) - A group of Franklin Public Schools educators filed a grievance, or formal complaint, to the district pointing out a number of issues that are making them feel unsafe to work in schools during the pandemic. Franklin Public Schools says 80-percent of the district’s students chose in-person learning this school year.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) says 77 educators signed the grievance letter in September. The educators varied from elementary, middle and high school grade levels, but they say issues haven’t been remedied.

“There’s just a real problem with having face-to-face instruction when you have that kind of community infection because so many people are going to be coming into those schools with an infection probably,” said Ted Kraig, regional director for Wisconsin Education Association Council Region 7.

The grievance points out a number of problems at Franklin Public Schools, like few measures for social distancing, inadequate ventilation and a lack of outline to close in-person learning due to outbreaks.

“You have the same size class sizes and you have situations where teachers are telling me you can’t even get one or two-foot distance between the students and the staff,” added Kraig. 

Kraig says the district responded in a letter refusing to meet and process the grievance, and WEAC attorneys have now formally told the district it’s violating legal obligations.

“Share concerns, exchange information and try to come to resolution, so it surprised us that there’s no meeting and no effort to do that with the district’s educators,” said Kraig.

Meanwhile, the district tells CBS 58 they have addressed the grievance letter and says at this time their metrics don’t warrant a switch to virtual learning. They say the past 14 days 99-percent of students weren’t infected.

In a statement they say in part:

“Disinfecting and sanitation occur at high levels throughout the day and all ventilation complies with state codes for safety standards.”

WEAC says educators also asked the Franklin Health Department to inspect the school, to which they say the health department declined.

“So this is unfortunately a really common phenomenon that the local health departments are not particularly assertive in making sure districts do everything they can to keep staff and students safe,” said Kraig.

In a community update, the Franklin Health Department says they have quarantined full classrooms of up to 40 students if there is a positive case, and says the majority of positive school-aged cases were contracted outside of school.

On Tuesday, state health officials say separation is the most effective way to curb outbreaks at campuses.

“Testing was not what prevented the infections, that’s not what stopped the outbreak—what stopped the outbreak was when they found cases, they were isolated,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“In-person instruction—of course everybody would like that, but shouldn’t we be erring on the side of people not getting hurt?” said Kraig.

As of Friday, Franklin Public Schools had 244 students in quarantine due to close contact with a COVID-19 positive person, and 13 students are isolated due to a positive case.

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