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Lake Travis students call for more teachers to be allowed to work from home during pandemic

At least one teacher faces a decision to risk their job at Lake Travis High School or risk the health of a family member due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LAKEWAY, Texas — This week, a Change.org petition asked the Lake Travis Independent School District to reverse course on possibly firing a teacher who refused to return to Lake Travis High School because of coronavirus concerns.

According to the petition, an LTHS physics teacher who was working from home to start the year must now consider either working at the school or losing his job. While LTISD Superintendent Paul Norton declined to talk about a specific staff member, he said the district wants to help teachers who want to work from home, but can't find substitutes to hold down the classroom in person.

"We want to accommodate the ones first that are personally at risk, and then we can accommodate as many of the rest as we possibly can," Norton said. "At this point, it's just a matter of having bodies to be in the classroom."

According to Norton, the district sent out a survey to teachers back in July asking how comfortable they would be working in a classroom. At the same time, students were required to respond by early August if they wanted to learn in the classroom or from home. Norton said the district then looked at how many students wanted to learn at school, what level of education they needed and how many teachers were at higher risk themselves of contracting COVID-19.

In the end, about 70 instructional staff were allowed to work from home – approximately 10% of the district's teachers, according to Norton.

Students started the petition because, according to the teacher, he did not want to risk the health of his "elderly, bedridden father" or his wife, who "has a serious medical condition we just finished treatment for this summer." While the goal was to save the job of this teacher and a couple of others, students hope the results of their calls for change impact the rest of the teachers at LTISD as well.

"We believe the district is not making a sufficient effort to accommodate these teachers," Carson Hammock, a senior at LTHS, said. "Obviously, we can't change the schedule of 3,000 students right now. It's just not going to happen. So, what we're wanting to do is maintain a continuity of teacher relationships and educational style ... whether we need to broadcast their classes are done at home into classes and get proctors to proctor the classes. I don't think that's an unreasonable thing in order to maintain these teachers' livelihoods and, you know, not risk their family's lives."

Hammock was joined by a handful of fellow seniors at Wednesday night's Board of Trustees meeting. One parent had a similar message for the board but did not know the students would be speaking too.

"We're basically taking one for the team because we care more about how our decisions as a whole affect our community," said Kristen Donner Valentine, who has three teenage sons in LTISD. "We really want to see the community at Lake Travis do better, just do better [to] care about one another."

The Board of Trustees did not respond to any of the pleas from students or parents on Wednesday because the topic was not on the agenda.

WATCH: Eanes ISD teachers required to return to on-campus instruction


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