Weekley has worked in the Cherry Creek School District for 24 years and believes administrators have done the best they can to prepare for the new academic year. He is proud to teach in the district and has his own children enrolled there.
But he believes the risks are too great for any school to open in the current stage of the pandemic.
“I don’t want my classroom to be a place where people get sick and causes death for people,” he told CBS4 on Tuesday. “It sounds terrifying at this point, until we get a handle on COVID, until it is 14 days free of new cases in Colorado, I don’t know if I can send my child, I really don’t think I can.”
Many teachers across Colorado say the current plan by the state to lead school districts toward reopening in the fall is not safe and they don’t want to return to in-person learning. The “14 Days No New Cases” campaign calls for two full weeks without a new COVID-19 positive case before sending students and staff back to school.
“As the state of Colorado has it right now, I am terrified, I am absolutely terrified of the idea of going back to school,” said Garrett Weekley, a 7th grade language arts teacher at Campus Middle School.
He is a member of the private Facebook group, “Colorado Schools for Safe Openings – 14 Days No New Cases,” which now has more than 8,500 members. The page says it is made up of teachers, school staff and community members part of a movement to safely reopen. Some members want each county in Colorado to hold itself to the standard of 14 days without a new case of coronavirus before allowing in-person learning at their schools. But Weekley believes it has to be statewide because of the possibility of a spread from travelers moving county to county.
“Education is something that every child is afforded but if it comes at the risk of people dying,” he said. “I mean is it worth sending your kids to school if your family members die?”
While teachers have not called for a strike or said they want to stop working, the movement is growing as teachers in the state’s largest union have expressed similar concerns. Nearly 80% of the Colorado Education Association say they would refuse to return to work over safety concerns. Results released of a survey of nearly 10,000 CEA members earlier in the month showed 95 percent want educators voting on district plans for returning to school. More than half said in the survey they want the school year to start 100% remotely.
“It’s not safe, it’s not safe for kids, it’s not safe for adults, it’s not for families,” Weekley said. “I on a personal level would be willing to stand out and be loud and make as much nose as possible to bring attention to it.”