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'Do we risk it?' | After surviving COVID, Racine alderman doesn't think schools are ready to open yet

'Do we risk it?' | After surviving COVID, Racine alderman doesn't think schools are ready to open yet

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RACINE — Alderman Henry Perez, who is recovering from COVID-19, supported Wednesday’s resolution in which the Racine City Council urged the Racine Unified School District to wait until teachers can get vaccinated to reopen school buildings further.

Perez spoke of his own personal experience, which included a week in the hospital.

“In the hospital, I was totally to the point where I thought I was going to die,” said Perez, 59.

He called the district’s plan to reopen schools before staff had access to vaccinations “outrageous.” Wisconsin’s plan is to open up vaccinations to educators and those who work in child care on March 1, although it will likely be months before everyone in those categories who wants to be vaccinated can be.

Right now, many special education students are learning in person but most students aren’t. On March 1, students pre-K through sixth grade plus freshmen and seniors in high school are going to be able to return to school buildings. The week of March 8, seventh-graders and high school juniors can return. The last group of students, eighth-graders and high school sophomores, will be able to come back on March 15. Virtual learning options are still being offered for all.

‘Literally terrified’

Perez is an RUSD special education teacher and he said most of the team he works with is concerned about a return to in-person instruction without a better plan or access to vaccinations.

Perez said the district gave him two face masks and a kit for constructing a face shield.

“A lot of people in my building right now are terrified — literally terrified,” he said.

“It’s just a tragedy waiting to happen,” he continued, noting that there have been kids who have died from COVID.

“Do we risk it?” he asked. “Is one life worth it?”

Perez noted while there is a high survival rate among those who were infected with COVID, there is also the possibility that they will have permanent health issues.

He called the safety of the students paramount.

“We need to be concerned about people, we need to be concerned about our fellow instructors, and we need to be concerned about our children,” he said.

Perez concluded by saying he hoped the resolution would encourage RUSD to delay in-person instruction until such a time as a more comprehensive safety plan for staff and students was in place.

A new survey has found that 71% of pet owners “could not have survived” the COVID-19 pandemic if it wasn’t for their pet. The survey of 1,023 American pet owners was conducted by Kinship Partners. 84% of respondents said the pandemic helped them appreciate how much their pets improve their lives. A similar amount of people said their pet deserves more of their time in 2021, with many owners planning on spoiling their pet. 44% of pet parents in a relationship said that they spend more money on their pet than they do on gifts for their partner. 62% said that their pet’s happiness was a top priority.

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