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McFarland teacher loses his COVID safe space

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — McFarland School District officials say they are removing a plastic-covered enclosure a teacher had been using as in-person learning resumes.

“Last week, during the opening days of school-wide in-person instruction at McFarland High School, we received concerns about a temporary enclosure that a teacher was using at their teaching station on a short-term basis as a protective measure against COVID-19,” Superintendent Andrew Briddell told Empower Wisconsin on Monday in an email. “Today these classes began meeting in the Student Learning Center and the enclosure is being removed.”

Briddell said the teacher, reportedly in his late 30s, is “very uncomfortable with in-person learning.”

Indeed.

A photo sent to Empower Wisconsin shows a makeshift “room” within a classroom constructed by the teacher. The wood-framed structure is completely covered in plastic. A student desk faces the enclosure.

The story was first reported by conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna.

“This reflects what parents in Dane County are up against,” a “frustrated parent” wrote in an email obtained by Empower Wisconsin. “Teachers unions who are being made to go back to work (well, hybrid, in the case of McFarland, 3.5 hour days) are being so resistant that they will go to these ends.”

The message district residents are receiving from the teacher, according to the parent is, “If you’re going to make me come to work, I’m going to make it difficult for the child to get a good in-person education.”

But the plastic-ensconced teacher is not alone, according to sources.

“Many teachers are also ‘teaching to the computer’ — telling in-person kids to bring earbuds and login FROM the classroom to Zoom that day. How is that better than virtual??” One parent wrote.

Briddell said the teacher who built the plastic safe space experienced the loss of a family member to COVID-19. The district is “working to support both the teacher and our students to be as comfortable as possible with in-person learning.”

“As of today, March 1, this teacher’s classes are meeting in the Student Learning Center. This solution provides a better learning environment for students while helping the teacher continue to become more comfortable with in-person learning,” the superintendent said.

One parent who raised concerns said the district would not have done anything had district residents not complained in large numbers. She said high school administrators had to have known the teacher was building a structure within his classroom.

“The fact that they didn’t prevent it from getting built in the first place is appalling,” the parent said. “This is the culture we are up against in Dane County. Parents have to complain in order to address this teacher’s ‘room’. Our teachers union is powerful.  We will be lucky to get our kids back in school full time by next fall. In the meantime, our hybrid kids still won’t be getting a quality education.”

As Empower Wisconsin has reported, faculty representatives from Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) were caught last week sending out an email to teachers in the Madison school district urging them to fake COVID-19 to protest the return of in-person learning.

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