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Hundreds of Austin ISD teachers vow not to return to campuses on Monday

The educators say they are concerned over the threat of COVID-19 on campus and will only continue teaching in a virtual setting.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Austin ISD students are set to return to in-person learning on Monday, around 850 teachers in the district say they will not return to campus.

The educators say they are concerned over the threat of COVID-19 on campus and will only continue teaching in a virtual setting, according to KVUE’s media partners at the Austin American-Statesman.

Of 925 teachers who requested medical waivers and accommodations to continue to work remotely, 54% were approved, with hundreds denied or still pending, the Statesman reported. Out of the 1,485 total staff members, 44% received accommodations.

In order for an accommodation to be approved, the applicant must be medically high-risk for the coronavirus and provide medical documentation. That does not extend to those with high-risk family members.

“I will not return on Monday nor do I plan to under any circumstances,” science teacher Patrick Stinson told the Statesman.

Stinson said he applied for accommodations because his wife has a chronic heart condition, but that request was denied. He now risks losing his teaching by refusing to return to the classroom setting.

“Lots of us can’t afford to make this choice and have to do the wrong thing in order to eat,” he said.

On Saturday, some teachers and staff gathered at the Austin ISD headquarters to ask district leaders to push back re-opening.

“We care too much about the safety of our educators,” said Austin ISD teacher and Education Austin member Alex Murphy. “We care too much about the safety and the health, mental and physical, of our students in this haphazard fashion that the district seems determined to do, to placate I don't even know who.”

Austin's school district followed guidelines from Austin Public Health to determine its reopening plans.

Schools are set to reopen at 25% building capacity on Oct. 5, then at 50% capacity two weeks later.

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