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Union head warns about return to classes


In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Priest, the head of Oklahoma’s largest teachers’ union is praising Gov. Kevin Stitt for moving teachers and support staff to phase two of the vaccine distribution plan. But Priest also warned the governor Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, that forcing schools to return to in-person learning in January could jeopardize the health and safety of public school workers. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)

By SEAN MURPHY The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The head of Oklahoma’s largest teachers union praised Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday for moving school personnel to phase two of the vaccine distribution plan, but she warned the governor that forcing schools to return to in-person learning next month could jeopardize the safety of public school workers.

During a news conference, Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest also released details of an informal survey of more than half its members that show 63% believe schools are not safe for in-person instruction. The governor, who has pushed an aggressive reopening plan, has said his goal is to have all public schools offer in-person classes after the Christmas break.

“We have heard from so many teachers who are excited about returning to their classrooms in January or are grateful to teach in a district that offers in-person instruction because they know how many students are struggling with distance learning,” said Stitt’s spokesman, Charlie Hannema, who noted that the majority of Oklahoma teachers are not members of the union and didn’t participate in the survey.

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