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Five more teachers unions slam the Winnebago County Health Department, Dr. Martell

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — Five more teachers unions are expressing their disappointment with the Winnebago County Health Department and the department's public health administrator.

The Hononegah Education Association, Kinnikinnick Education Association, Prairie Hill Federation of Teachers, Rockton Teachers’ Association and Shirland Education Association sent a letter to the Winnebago County Health Department regarding comments made by Dr. Sandra Martell, the Public Administrator with the health department, on Monday.

Here's what Dr. Martell said during that news conference: "The school children, I'm going to call them the 'little kiddos' have been doing a great job. The school personnel, I'm going call them the 'adult kiddos,' have not been following the guidance consistence [sic]."

Dr. Martell's comments led to both the Rockford Education Association and the Harlem Federation of Teachers to respond on Tuesday.

Here's what part of the letter sent by the five teachers unions on Wednesday reads:

"We are dismayed—in the face of a pandemic—that you would publicly blame the educators who are risking their health and the health of their loved ones to provide quality education to our community."

The letter sent on Wednesday also calls for the Winnebago County Health Department to make several changes. Here's a look at what they would like to see addressed:

  • Implement clear thresholds for establishing an “adaptive pause.” The unions say this was previously discussed, but blames the health department for continuously moving the target required in order to move all schools safely to remote learning.
  • Apply thorough and timely contact tracing within buildings to prevent further spread. The unions say this is absolutely critical for the safety of the entire school community and say it must be done accurately and quickly so that others are not needlessly put at risk.
  • Establish clear communication with administrators, teachers, students, and staff of possible exposure in their classes. The unions say all members of a class are not told their classroom has been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. The unions say the lack of transparency leaves everyone with an increased level on anxiety toward absences.
  • Convey accurate reporting of the amount of infection and quarantine.

The teachers union say educators are going above and beyond during the pandemic and need the health department's support, not criticism.

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Andrew Carrigan

Andy Carrigan is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team as a photographer in 2016 after graduating from Northern Illinois University. He also been a producer and Assignment Editor at the station.

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