FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Media Contact: Kiwana Hall
Over 1,500 Montgomery County Educators, Support Staff, and Community Members Demonstrate Demanding Safe and Equitable School Reopening
ROCKVILLE, MD – Over 1,500 frontline Montgomery County educators held a major demonstration this evening outside Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) headquarters. Members of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) and SEIU Local 500 rallied to demand the MCPS Board of Education consider equitable solutions for the safe reopening of schools, in the largest escalation to date.
The rally was organized in direct opposition to the recently approved MCPS reopening plan, which MCEA found requires “more space, more people, and more resources than are now available,” and has inadequate safety measures for students and educators. The association took a vote of no confidence in the plan earlier this month.
In all, more than 1,500 Montgomery County community members made their voices heard, forming a 900 car long picket around the Board of Education Meeting. The caravan halted traffic in Rockville on Hungerford Drive/MD Route 355 and other surrounding streets.
Speakers at the subsequent socially distanced rally included MCEA President Chris Lloyd, MCEA President-Elect Jennifer Martin, SEIU Local 500 President Pia Morrison, community parents Jeremy Levine and Wylea Chase, and Maryland Delegates Eric Luedtke and Gabriel Acevero.
“It’s ironic that we’re demanding safety while we’re standing underneath a flag raised half-mast for over 500,000 lives lost,” Martin said. “We will not sacrifice our health and safety. Frankly, we’re insulted that it was assumed we should just suck it up and obey the delusional, dangerous directives.”
“MCPS must respect us, protect us and pay us,” Morrison declared. “Everyone has had to step up in different ways to educate this community. Now, MCPS needs to step up to protect their workers.”
Gianna Morales, a frontline 4th grade teacher at Stedwick Elementary, spoke about her experiences as an educator, balancing her own desire to come back into the classroom with the harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a teacher, I hear a lot of the concerns and hopes from my students, my colleagues, and my community, especially around reopening. I have a lot of concerns and hopes, myself,” she said. “But it’s because I’m an educator that I know, as much as I wish it was, the classroom is not always the answer. I want to teach my students in person as much as the next educator, but only when it is safe for my students and my community.”
Today, MCEA members demanded that MCPS adhere to CDC guidelines regarding the physical reopening of school buildings, implement a contact tracing and testing program, and provide all employees the opportunity to be fully vaccinated before a return to in-person instruction. They asserted that the system must also develop a building reopening plan for the adequate staffing of all instructional models, particularly those that directly serve Black and brown students, and students impacted by poverty without diminishing access to staff and services that supplement required direct instruction.
Educators’ demands are simple, Jennifer Martin affirmed: “There is a vaccine. Give it to us before we go into harm’s way!”