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Some Monroe teachers refuse to return to classrooms amid COVID-19 concerns

The district's superintendent sent a letter reminding Monroe teachers they could be fired for not coming to work.

MONROE, Wash. — The plan was to have Monroe School District first graders back in their classrooms for in-person learning on Monday, but that got pushed back by a day after teachers complained about potential exposure to coronavirus.

When Tuesday arrived, the classrooms were open, but it was unclear how many people actually showed up.

Parent Kim Cook both runs a business and supervises a home classroom for her two children.

It's a situation so many parents are juggling right now.

"It's impossible! I want my kids back in school! I miss my sanity," she said.

But Cook is refusing to send her first grader, Helen, back to the classroom anytime soon.

Snohomish County, and much of the country, are in the midst of an exponential surge in coronavirus cases.

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At least 39 students and 3 staffers are currently under quarantine in the Monroe School District after being exposed to COVID-19.

"I think it’s absolutely insane to go back to in-person learning during a massive COVID spike," Cook said. "This is a very far-reaching and scary pandemic. To put people in contact with one another right now is just unsafe."

District administrators, however, believe it is safe to send first graders back to the classroom in a hybrid model.

They say they're following the guidance of Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters, who addressed the issue during a weekly coronavirus update on Tuesday.

"Data collected in Washington shows while cases and small outbreaks have occurred in schools, transmission of COVID-19 has been limited in the school setting and is not contributing substantially to the community-wide transmission."

All this comes as Superintendent Justin Blasko sent a letter to teachers telling them, in no uncertain terms, they can be fired if they don't return to their classrooms.

First grade teacher Romana Plesa, who held virtual classes from her home Tuesday in defiance of the superintendent, called it pure bullying and intimidation.

"When I read that letter it reminded me of what we teach our children every day to not accept in our life," she said.

When asked for comment, a school district spokesperson would only say, "The Monroe School District will continue to meet with the Monroe Education Association to work to find a solution to best serve the students of the Monroe School District."

For parents like Kim Cook, it's one more day of dealing with their "impossible" situation.

"Hopefully we can all come together," she said. "That's what this is going to take."

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