Parents in Argyle and Queensbury are expressing concern that the requirement for staff to be vaccinated or tested is forcing educators out of classrooms.
A group of Argyle parents are speaking out over the suspension of nine staff members over the issue of COVID vaccination and testing.
Parent Kristine French, who is representing the group, said in an email she is concerned that the suspensions will be detrimental to the students because the district is already short-staffed.
“This group of staff had asked for a meeting with the superintendent (Wednesday) to discuss options including consulting with their personal physicians, however that was denied,” French said. “They wanted also to ask for an extension as other school districts have done for their staff. All have been put on unpaid leave.”
She said that substitutes are filling in teaching subjects such as physical education and art and other teachers are swapping classrooms because there is no one to cover a class.
“This is not a positive atmosphere conducive to learning. It is not providing them sound educational experiences when teachers are put on suspension. We are going to lose our educators just like we are losing our health care system,” she said.
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French said parents have called and emailed but have not gotten a response from Argyle Central School Superintendent Michael Healey. They have even been stopped at the door.
“The school is pro ‘in person’ learning for the 2021-22 school year; however they are demonstrating they are willing to compromise that by letting teachers go,” she said in an email.
She said the group is planning a rally and protest to stand up for the Argyle staff members.
Parent Sonya Ingram said in an email she is also concerned about the loss of staff.
“It’s disheartening to know that this is mainly due to mandates that are not conducive to learning or supportive of our children’s social-emotional development and also infringe upon the rights of our students and staff,” she said. “I can only hope that more people will take a stand and fight — not only for the rights of our children, but also for our educators and parents.”
When contacted, Healey said he would not comment on personnel matters. He said that all public school districts are subject to the mandate from the state and the vast majority of the district’s faculty and staff are in compliance with that mandate.
“As one of the few school districts in New York state that has been able to provide in-person learning for all students going back to the start of the 2020-21 school year, the well-being of the school community — including our students, faculty and staff — remains a top priority for our school,” he said in an email.
In Queensbury, teacher Joe Traina is on unpaid administrative leave for not agreeing to the weekly virus testing. He has said that he had COVID and has natural immunity. He also said that he believes he is taking a stand against government overreach.
People have flooded social media with messages supporting Traina. One is even having shirts made up saying “Bring Traina Back.”
The district has not commented on his suspension, only saying on Tuesday that it is following all the requirements of the state. Superintendent Kyle Gannon said that 90% of the district’s staff is vaccinated.
Also, a group of parents gathered outside the Queensbury school campus Thursday morning in a protest over the district's decision that the district has made unvaccinated football players quarantine until Wednesday but are sending other vaccinated students back into the school the next day.
Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.