Parents at a California school are questioning why a kindergarten teacher who opted not to return to the physical classroom is taking her virtual lessons on a Mexican vacation.
The Richmond teacher set the remote controversy in motion when she sent an email to parents on Friday, notifying them that she was heading south of the border for 12 days to attend her son’s wedding, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
The unnamed teacher reportedly said she would be teaching part of the time from Mexico, but her online classes would be canceled on certain days.
“All supplies and materials will be provided ahead of time for any class activities that will take place while I am out of the country. Please contact me ahead of time if you have any concerns. Wishing you a sunny week ahead,” wrote the teacher, according to the newspaper.
The West Contra Costa Unified district reopened classrooms for families and teachers on a voluntary basis, but no medical waivers were required to opt out, the paper reported.
The episode has struck a nerve with parents who have lobbied for months to return to in-person education, as vaccinations dramatically push down COVID-19 rates, according to the article.
California educators were among the first to be eligible for vaccines so they could return to the classroom.
“I was very upset,” one parent of a child who was unable to return to the school due to an in-person teacher shortage, told the paper. “I had assumed she chose not to return to the classroom due to concerns about COVID, but clearly this is not the case if she is traveling to Mexico.”
“By giving teachers the choice to return or not for any reason, the district has taken the choice away from so many children,” the parent reportedly added.
Reopen California Schools founder Jonathan Zachreson posted screenshots of the teacher’s email on the group’s Twitter page.
“It just was absolutely ridiculous hearing about what was happening,” he told the Chronicle. “These institutions are abusing any leverage or any flexibility that they have,” he said. “If we give them an inch, they take a mile.”
One education advocate had a more generous take on the teacher’s Mexican getaway.
“The extreme stories can sometimes appear the norm when they’re not,” Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, told the paper. “They complicate what I think is a much more consensus view: Our teachers are so valued.”
The district’s policy reportedly requires teachers to take a leave of absence when they are abroad, and state education rules require live remote interaction between teachers and students.
A board of education trustee said the district superintendent was investigating whether the teacher violated protocol, according to the report.