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'Teachers are not martyrs' | Texas educators protest at state capitol

Texas educators protest a return to campus Saturday outside the state capitol in Austin.

HOUSTON — Dozens of Texas teachers rallied at the state capitol in Austin Saturday requesting an extension before they are told they must return to their campuses.

"Teachers are not martyrs," one protesting teacher said. "Teachers are people. Teachers have lives, too.”

The Texas Education Agency changed its re-opening directive to schools on Friday.

School districts can now choose to postpone on-campus instruction for the first four weeks of classes; after that, they may petition for an additional four weeks off campus if needed.

“This is a step in the right direction and gives the government the time to get control over the level of COVID here in the Houston area," Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said.

But not all school districts are doing the same thing.

The protest in Austin was for the teachers who have been told they must start the school year in the classroom, Capo said, even though the state says individual school districts may decided.

"I made a doctor appointment this summer because I have chronic asthma," one teacher said. "I get community-acquired pneumonia at least two to three times a year. I'm a teacher, so I live in a Petri dish, and I asked her is it dangerous for me to return to work? I don't want to abandon my life path, but I also don't want to die for no reason."

Capo said teachers do not want to return to campuses until they are sure they will be safe.

His suggestion for when that might be possible, at this point in the pandemic, sounds like a tall order.

"At least 14 days of declining COVID cases and the percentage of COVID positive individuals has dropped below 5 percent," Capo said.