LAWRENCE — Teachers across the city gathered Thursday wearing their union's signature "red for ed" T-shirts to protest the school system's reopening plan.

Under state guidelines, students in pre-kindergarten through grade five, and special education learners, are scheduled to return to classrooms on Monday.

During what they deemed a "walk-in," teachers and paraprofessionals came together before school to show support to the bargaining team currently negotiating the terms of the reopening plan with Superintendent Cynthia Paris and other school officials, according to teachers union President Kimberly Barry. 

According to Barry, 40% of Lawrence Public School families are opting to remain remote as the district transitions to in-person learning as required by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"We want to be respected as professionals. We want to be included in the decision-making process," Barry said. "Teacher voices should be heard, as we know our students and have their best interests in mind. We want the district to work with us."

As a result of the pandemic, Lawrence Public Schools students have been attending class remotely from home this year, with the exception of select high-needs learners, who only recently returned to certain school buildings in February and March.

Grades six through eight are expected to return to in-person learning April 28, Superintendent Paris said, with high school students possibly returning in early May.

The teachers union met with state Sen. Barry Finegold and other local and state stakeholders last month in hopes of delaying the in-person return.

Union President Barry said she would like to see the district allow educators dealing with childcare concerns, living with elderly parents or facing extenuating health issues to be able to telework in order to remain healthy. Gov. Charlie Baker allowed teachers to begin to get vaccinated against COVID-19 three weeks ago.

"We want to get some protections in place for those of our members who are most vulnerable to contracting the virus," Barry said. "This is totally doable, and it’s the right thing to do. Schools need these employees in order to offer equal education opportunities (to) our students, those who will be both distant and in-person."

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