JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shirley Kirby taught theater at Stanton College Preparatory School for more than 23 years.
“It’s my passion. It really is,” she said. “I’ve loved that school for more than 23 years.”
Last week, Kirby turned in her resignation, as she was concerned for her health.
“It just takes that one slip up, that hand on the doorknob, that then you touch your face,” Kirby said. “And with coming in contact with all those people — it’s like a huge, it’s a huge group — and I just, I can’t do it.”
Kirby has a compromised immune system and said the school environment is far too risky to her health — even with the precautions that the school district is taking. Her coworkers say her absence will be a big loss to the school.
“She’s a legacy,” said Stephanie Szymczyk, a school counselor at Stanton. “It is going to be a sincerely large loss to not have her at the school.”
Kirby isn’t alone. News4Jax has heard from more than a dozen teachers, bus drivers and staff members who say the threat of COVID-19 is just too great to risk returning to the job.
A bus driver, who didn’t want to be identified, told News4Jax this week she’s leaving the company — even after the drivers union worked out new safety regulations on buses. That driver had been taking students to class for nearly two decades and told News4Jax the decision to quit was surreal.
“That’s having a huge effect because we’re opening the schools with vacancies. We are opening our school along with a substitute for one of our science classes. This is beyond our control. This as a district issue,” Szymczyk said.
For Kirby, she says it’s about life and death.
“This feels so wrong, but I don’t have a choice,” Kirby said. “It’s not worth my life, you know?”
News4Jax has requested the number of teacher and staff resignations in the Duval County school district this year and was still waiting on that information as of Tuesday evening.