Winthrop teachers call on district to go remote amidst COVID-19 outbreak

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:20 AM EST
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WINTHROP, Maine (WMTW) - Winthrop’s teacher’s union is calling on its school district to go remote due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

Members of the Winthrop Education Association held a virtual press conference Wednesday a day after the district’s School Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to keep students learning in-person, despite the Maine CDC recommending that the district’s schools close due to the number of cases.

The teachers say they do not know how many cases are active in the district. The CDC’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that 39 cases have been reported at Winthrop Grade School in the last 30 days as of Nov. 4, the second-most cases for any school in Maine over that span.

“We know this is a hardship for many families,” said Theresa Fitzgerald, the co-president of the Winthrop Educators Association. “However, we do not believe that we could ignore the fact that if we stay open, we may be adding to the increase in cases in our area, which could force even more students into quarantine.”

Fitzgerald went on to say that the district had exhausted all other options to no avail.

“We do masking, we do distancing, we have assigned seats, everything that’s been suggested as a recommendation by the CDC we’re doing,” Fitzgerald said. “And this virus is spreading anyways.”

Winthrop Superintendent Jim Hodgkin released a statement to WMTW News 8 saying that the recommendation put forward at the school committee meeting of the district going remote for three weeks with Thanksgiving week in the middle would have given its employees much needed breathing room.

“It is an unfortunate situation,” Hodgkin said. “This is very challenging with valid concerns from everyone. There is no right or wrong. Our staff is at a breaking point and parents are struggling as well. The recommendation from the CDC is the result of the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus despite every precaution that has been put in place. The hope was that extended remote learning would result in a “reset” of the number of cases and provide our staff with needed relief.”

The School Committee did vote to cancel school on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

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