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Reopening: Palo Alto Teachers List COVID-19 Safety Demands Before Return To Classrooms

PALO ALTO (CBS SF) -- Teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District are asking for personal protective equipment for themselves as well as their students before they feel safe to walk into a classroom again.

The proposal, by the Palo Alto Educators Association, which represents 900 employees, also asks for plastic face shields, disposable gloves, smocks, hand washing stations and COVID-19 or antibody testing.

But the requests go beyond PPE. The proposal also includes an increased nursing staff, a deep cleaning of classrooms before the start of school and protocols on how students will line up, enter and exit classrooms. The teachers are also asking that their sick time remain untouched if they must quarantine.

"Our teachers are troopers," said Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin. "I'm telling you they are working harder than ever."

Baldwin said they are exploring morning and afternoon schedules for elementary school students, and staggered or blended schedules for middle and high schoolers.

The California Department of Education is expected to release a guide book in early June on how it expects schools to reopen in the fall.

Tony Thurmond, the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, dropped clues in a virtual news conference Wednesday on what those guidelines will look like. They are not too far from what school districts are already planning.

"We're going to have to use every part of the campus to make sure that we have six feet of distance," Thurmond said. "Students and staff should be wearing a face covering at school; smaller class class sizes at every school, that means smaller numbers of students on buses; there will be individuals who will be taking temperatures of students."

For schools across the state, the first lesson for the next school year is how to keep everyone safe.

"It would definitely make it harder if some of the teachers had to be out for a long periods of time, so we want to keep everyone healthy," said Baldwin.

The union plans to discuss its proposal with district leaders on Friday afternoon.

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