LANSING – A group of Michigan educators took to the lawn of the Capitol Building in Lansing on Thursday to protest the state’s return-to-school plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, protests in Lansing have been chaotic with little social distancing. Thursday’s protest was about the online learning teachers want instead of in-person learning, and so they have been very serious about their social distancing.
The small group of teachers sat in a carefully-planned and separated rows on the Capitol doorstep and lawn, masks and signs at the ready.
“We’re listening to the public health experts,” said Paul Sandy, a social studies teacher in Pontiac and protest organizer. “We don’t want to be pressured by economic pressures to go back early and risk the lives of our teachers and the families of our students.”
Yexenia Vanegas is an art teacher in Detroit who also organized the protest. Knowing that Detroit’s superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti, is pushing hard for in-person learning, she sees more practical problems.
“We should be starting remote learning,” Venegas said. “It could be the first quarter where there is no new COVID-19 cases in 14 days, we can go in and begin in-person learning or begin a hybrid model.”
Sandy said the group pushed for better school funding and changes in the way schools operate for years and COVID-19 just piled on more frustration and concern.
“These hybrid plans coming out -- while well-intentioned and while understandable, despite wanting to talk to parents and stuff -- it is going to spread coronavirus,” Sandy said. “It is going to directly lead to harming people, sadly.”