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TUSD Teacher quits over COVID concerns

Teacher ends 20 year career after multiple efforts to keep her job
Posted at 7:24 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 21:29:55-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Kim Gimblett has been teaching Language Arts in TUSD for 20 years. But after two decades, she’s calling it quits.

She resigned this month because of the pandemic.

“I didn’t realize the stress that it was going to cause me and my family," she said.

Her husband has underlying health issues -- heart disease and high blood pressure.

She said, “I want to keep him around a long time so I’m very much, so very protective on him.

So much so that when the state, including schools, suddenly shutdown last spring, she packed up some of her things, headed north to Canada, and stayed in a tiny house “in the middle of the forest and socially isolated for months.”

She taught her students remotely until the end of the school year, then returned to Tucson.

COVID didn’t let up so during the summer she pursued every avenue to avoid returning to campus -- a Leave of Absence, American Disabilities Act, and FMLA -- to protect her husband from potential exposure.

But she was told “since you don’t take care of him, you can’t get family leave for that reason just because he’s high risk and I get that. I totally understand the reasons, but I feel like that is one of the unjust things is I should be able to get an unpaid leave of absence for a semester.”

The district remained in remote mode, but when the board voted to start hybrid learning with all teachers ordered back on campus, she felt she had to resign.

“They were not ready," she said.

TEA President Margaret Chaney agrees.

Chaney: "That is true in a lot of ways. I feel like we tried to be as ready as we could be."
Kim: "The facilities were not prepared. The families had not been educated. There was not efficient screening for staff or for students at all."
Chaney: "There was still many, many unanswered questions.
Kim: "And all of those things just like haunted me.”

Kim wrote a letter of resignation that was read to the Governing Board members during the November 17th meeting.

“I didn’t want them to accept my letter of resignation. I wanted them to assure me an online position. I was hoping that they'd have some kind of conversation about that, she said.

That didn’t happen. Her resignation is now official.

Chaney says other teachers feel the same as Kim.

TUSD Certified Separation records reveal a significant uptick in teachers resigning or retiring this month -- more than what traditionally happens in the month of November.

Chaney said, "I was getting a flood of emails daily of different folks saying ‘What am I going to do, what am I going to do?’ And now that they pushed the date out, it’s quiet. It’s a rock and a hard place.”

Though TUSD is remaining remote until at least January, Kim believes more teachers will leave.

“If we do go back into the classroom, I know several teachers at my school that will not be going back," she said, "The only reason I’m coming forward is because there are so many teachers out there that are having sleepless nights.”

She hopes the community comes together to help control COVID to prevent teachers from leaving their profession too early.

Kim’s last day is December 18th when the semester ends.

Kim said she may want to pursue a degree in school psychology.