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Colorado teachers union cancels Day of Action rally due to coronavirus fears

Thousands of Colorado teachers rallied for more education funding on April 27. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)
Thousands of Colorado teachers rallied for more education funding on April 27, 2018.
Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat

The Colorado Education Association announced late Tuesday that it would not hold a major teacher really scheduled for March 19.

“Be assured this difficult decision was made out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety and welfare of our students, members and families,” union President Amie Baca-Oehlert, said in a press release. “We closely monitored guidance from health officials at the federal and state level throughout this process.

“Though no official guidance was given to us to restrict public gatherings such as our Day of Action, we don’t want to contribute in any way to the anxiety people are experiencing during this troubling health crisis.”

Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday as Colorado ramped up testing and other efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. While he said that people over 65 and those with chronic health problems should not attend large public gatherings, he stopped short of discouraging others from doing so. And he did not ban large public gatherings, as some counties and cities have.

Union leaders had expected more than 5,000 educators and supporters to attend the Day of Action rally from districts around the state. Thirteen school districts and two charter networks had announced closures for that day due to the large number of staff absences. Other large school districts, like Aurora and Douglas County, are on spring break.

Teachers planned to advocate for a bill that would create a dedicated fund to increase pay for teachers and hourly employees at schools, for a statewide tax increase that would help fund education, and for lawmakers to increase education funding overall. The Day of Action was meant to reprise two days of protests in 2018 in which red-shirted teachers surrounded the Capitol and roughly two-thirds of Colorado students missed class.

Baca-Oehlert said union members would continue to visit the Capitol in smaller numbers to talk to lawmakers. The union also plans to roll out plans for a virtual day of action “to offer educators, parents, students, and public education supporters the opportunity to participate and have a powerful impact at the legislature from home.”

It was not immediately clear whether classes would be held on March 19. The Boulder Valley School District north of Denver quickly tweeted that classes would be held as normal now that the rally is canceled, while the south suburban Englewood district said it was still waiting to see if the 50% of teachers who had put in leave requests would cancel them.

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