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Vista middle school teacher: Lack of social distancing in her classroom 'frightening'

empty classroom
Posted at 3:48 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 11:54:31-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A teacher at a middle school in Vista says a look inside her classroom reveals her concerns about the lack of social distancing.

Laura Whitehouse’s classroom at Rancho Minerva Middle school. The history teacher has been at the school for seven years, and for the first time, she is anxious about going to school.

"It’s frightening. It’s frightening," said Whitehouse.

She says her fears stem from the lack of social distancing. Her classes have 34 kids, with two kids sitting at each table right next to each other.

"Distance between each table is about two feet. They’re just on top of each other," said Whitehouse.

Whitehouse says the kids are supposed to wear masks, but she sometimes has to remind them to put their masks on, and to maintain social distance.

"They want to clump together. They want to go to each other’s desk," said Whitehouse.

After a few days of in-person learning, Whitehouse on Tuesday received plexiglass for her desk and a HEPA air purifier, but she worries it’s not close to being enough. She says there’s no cleaning between classes, as new students rotate in.

"The germs that are accumulating are just crazy," said Whitehouse.

Amid her concerns, there have been at least four positive COVID-19 cases in the Vista Unified School District, sparking new rules about what will trigger a school to revert to distance learning.

Whitehouse, who has asthma, says the new rules don’t address what’s putting her and her students most at risk.

"I am afraid for them. I just want them and their families to be healthy," said Whitehouse.

She’s hoping for more cleaning, and more hybrid learning to reduce the number of kids in the classroom.

"The fear is this is just going to continue to get worse," said Whitehouse.

The teachers union tells ABC 10News they are preparing an OSHA complaint detailing the classroom conditions.

Superintendent of Schools Matt Doyle emailed ABC 10News the following statement:

"... We have spent more than 2 million dollars on personal protective equipment for our staff and schools. These include facemasks, face shields, gloves, plexiglass barriers for teachers and students, HEPA air filters, additional outside sinks, electrostatic disinfecting machines, posters, and more. Every teacher has been given these supplies ... We will continue to work proactively with teachers and staff to make sure that they get what they need in their classrooms."