Selma Unified teachers told to show up in classrooms with no childcare help

The only option for Michael and Maricruz Cooper is for one of them to take emergency leave and a pay cut.
SELMA, Calif. (KFSN) -- As Central Valley school districts scramble to put together plans for education this fall, one of them told teachers they must go to the classroom, but they won't get help making arrangements for childcare.

"I'm heartbroken because I started to teach 30 years ago with the same people in the district who are now leading it, and I feel let down," said teacher Sylvia Emmersen. "I feel personally let down. I'll try not to cry."

The coronavirus forced big changes for Michael and Maricruz Cooper in March, but the Selma Unified teachers adapted to online school pretty quickly.

"We had a whiteboard set up and we were doing our virtual instruction," said Michael Cooper, a 6th grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary. "While one of us was doing our lessons, the other was helping our kids with their Google Meet lessons."

They have four school-aged kids and no family to provide childcare, so being at home when the kids couldn't go to school was important.

But in a couple of weeks, Selma Unified wants them back in the classroom. Just the teachers, though. Kids will still learn virtually for now.

And in an email sent out Wednesday night, administrators told teachers they can't bring their kids to school and they won't be offering any type of childcare.

The only option for the Coopers then is for one of them to take emergency leave and a pay cut.

"I just think it's going to be a disservice to the students if they go that route, you know, having a sub come in, teachers going out, families losing income," said Cooper.

And losing income isn't the biggest fear for a lot of teachers.

Almost 40% of California teachers are over the age of 50 like Emmersen.

"For me it's scary because I don't know - if I catch this - I don't know if I'll be able to make it," said the Indianola Elementary teacher. "I'm in that group that's over 55 so you know, it's a scary thought to think that my life is on the line right here."

Just about every district is dealing with a disruption, but they're not all handling teachers the same way.

Sanger Unified will let teachers have their own kids in the classroom and they say they're looking for other childcare options.

The same goes for Merced City schools.

Clovis Unified hasn't finalized plans, but administrators say they at least plan to give teachers a childcare option.

Visalia Unified is working on a plan to let teachers work from home.

Fresno Unified is doing the same.

Of all the districts we contacted, Selma currently stands alone in requiring teachers to go to school and not offering help with childcare.

So they're struggling with the idea of going back to teach indoors.

"We love our kids," said Emmersen. "We miss them, but we have to make sure we can get back to work quickly."

She says the best way to get all the way back to work is for teachers to take care of themselves and their families, preferably from the safety of home.
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