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St. Louis teachers union calls for 100% virtual start to SLPS school year

"AFT St. Louis has no other choice but to recommend that St. Louis Public Schools open with 100% virtual instruction at this time"

ST. LOUIS — The union that represents the teachers of the St. Louis public school system is calling for a 100% virtual start to the school year.

The American Federation of Teachers Local 420 cited Dr. Deborah Birx's warning about St. Louis needing to take aggressive action to limit the spread of the coronavirus in calling for an all-virtual start to the school year.

"Given that the present rate of COVID-19 infections is unstable and the numbers of cases in the City of St. Louis are increasing, as well as information provided by Dr. Deborah Birx, AFT St. Louis has no other choice but to recommend that St. Louis Public Schools open with 100% virtual instruction at this time," Interim President Ray Cummings said in a news release. "We also are recommending a phased-in school reopening when feasible."

RELATED: 'It wasn’t new to us' | Task force leader says warning from Dr. Birx was not a surprise

RELATED: Report: Dr. Birx warns that St. Louis, 10 other cities need to take 'aggressive' action in COVID-19 fight

SLPS responded to the union's call with the following statement given to 5 On Your Side.

"We are reviewing AFT's recommendations, and Dr. Adams plans to discuss them with the Board of Education at its work session tomorrow evening."

Saint Louis Public Schools released its reopening plans last Monday.

There will be three options for students to choose from. Families are asked to select from in-person instruction from teachers in school buildings, virtual learning provided by district teachers through Microsoft Teams or online instruction through the student-driven Edmentum platform.

The deadline for families to respond is July 30. School is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24.

“Starting back in April, as we were first seeing the real impact of COVID-19 on our community, we put together a task force of stakeholders to develop a plan for the 2020-2021 school year,” said SLPS Superintendent Kelvin R. Adams. 

“This plan encompasses months of hard work by the administrators, teachers, community partners, and parents on the committee. It was reviewed and approved by our great partners at the City of St. Louis Department of Health. We are following their lead every step of the way,” said Adams. “We know the school year ahead will be challenging, but the plan we have put forth enables us to honor parent choice and return to school safely with flexibility, should we need to shift gears and return to 100% virtual.”

Every student in the Saint Louis Public Schools district will receive either an iPad or a laptop. According to a release from the district, younger students will get an iPad and high school students will receive a laptop. In addition to the technology, the district said any family who lacks internet is eligible to borrow a hot spot for learning.

RELATED: Saint Louis Public Schools reopening plan, all students to receive iPad or laptop

"The current surge of the virus has given Local 420 no other choice but to recommend that 100% virtual-only instruction in the City of St. Louis should continue until such time that the rate of infections have either leveled off or start to decline," Cummings said. "The virus is in charge right now."

St. Louis has reported 3,881 COVID-19 cases as of July 26, 1,485 of which have been reported in July. The city also has reported 164 COVID-19 deaths.

Credit: KSDK