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Jefferson Parish teachers rally against in-classroom learning to start year

"We're here because we love our students, we love our colleagues, and we want to keep everyone safe."

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — Schools in Jefferson Parish are expected to start in about two weeks, a move some argue is too soon. 

Emotions were high as a crowd rallied outside the Jefferson Parish Public Schools Administration Building Thursday.

With signs held high, teachers, parents and kids let their voices be heard.

"If the teachers are saying we're not ready, then the people in this building should say we are not ready," said one woman.

"We're trying to fight for the lives of our students, our colleagues," said John Guzda, a social studies teacher.

The rally, hosted by Louisiana Educators United, was in response to the Jefferson Parish School Board's decision to start schools Aug. 12.

"The message we're trying to get across, at this time it's not safe to return to schools," Guzda said.

So they're asking to start in-person learning later, a move neighboring parishes have also made.

"I want to teach, I want to help the kids, but I want to live as well," Keyra Johnson said.

Johnson is a parent, who also teaches 11th and 12th graders.

"We want to go back to work, we understand the importance of education," she said.

However, she feels there are things that must be addressed before classes can resume.

"There are no clear plans on how we're going to enforce social distancing, how we're going to enforce masks," she said. "And seating arrangements. Last year I had about 32 kids in each class. I don't see how they can social distance at 6-feet apart."

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Those at Thursday's rally say the actions taken now will make for a better future, and they're hopeful a resolution will be found.

"We have to stand here to love and to protect each other," Guzda said. "That's what it's all about."

Jefferson Parish Public Schools sent a statement to Eyewitness News following Thursday's rally:

"The safety of our students and employees is our top responsibility. The start of school looks different this year, and we recognize that some employees and families are uneasy about returning. Our Start Strong Jefferson plan was built using guidance from state and local public health officials and input from two surveys sent to families, employees, and the community. We encourage our stakeholders to give us feedback about reopening schools using a form found at jpschools.org/startstrong. We understand this is a strange time for many people, and we have to remind ourselves that we are all in this together. We will make adjustments as we receive new information and will keep our families and employees informed along the way. We will do what is best given the information we have to help our students succeed and keep everyone safe as we reopen schools."