LA MONTE, MO (KCTV) — A Missouri schoolteacher questions the back-to-school plans that have some students returning to school in late August.

Tony Caldwell has taught for 13 years, most recently at an elementary school in La Monte, Missouri. He’d love to go back and be with his students but questions the back to school plan. The difference between him and other teachers is that he’s pretty open about it.

“I’m tired of having a situation where a Democrat has one set of data in one hand and a Republican has another set of data in another hand, and it’s all lies between them,” Caldwell said.

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Veteran teacher Tony Caldwell is concerned that back-to-school plans being developed for his school in La Monte, Missouri, and elsewhere around the state won't be enough to protect students.

The first day of school at La Monte Elementary is Tuesday, August 25, and Caldwell questions the back-to-school plan for his elementary school as it currently stands - mandatory water bottles and suggested masks.

“I want to be in front of those students! My school is not the bad guy. My district is making the choice that they feel they have to because they are being pressured to!” Caldwell said.

The veteran educator has a number of good points as to why he is hesitant to see students heading back to school. A Sedalia native, he pointed out how the Missouri State Fair recently scaled back almost all of its events.

“We can’t handle a bunch of farmers walking around looking at pigs, but every day we are going to put kids in school and see what happens? When does that make any sense?” Caldwell said. “When did our children become a commodity to be bought and sold in political chess. I mean shell game. This is too stupid to be chess.”

He points out teachers aren’t wimps. They train for school shootings every year.

“I look students in their eyes and say, ‘You will make it safely home every day if I have anything to do with it.’ Now you want to make me stand in front of them a hypocrite because I can’t guarantee that,” Caldwell told KCTV5 News. “According to the governor, you are going to get sick, but it will be okay. Just hope grandma isn’t around.”

Pettis County, where La Monte is located, hasn’t made much news for coronavirus, but the neighboring county to the north, Saline County, has been a hotspot. In fact, it’s been the focus of a KCTV5 News investigation because the numbers were so high, with many blamed on a meat packing plant.

Kansas City has on average an infection rate of 783 per every 100,000 people. In Pettis County where Caldwell teaches, that number is much lower at 472, but it neighboring Saline County it is nearly double of KC at 1,519, showing that rural spread of the disease is happening, leaving teachers concerned.

The Missouri School Teachers Association, a group which represents more than 40,000 teachers across the state, has released a statement on schools reopening, saying in part that its members believe “all students and educators have a right to a safe school environment” and that “science and the recommendations of local public health agencies, not politics, should drive decision-making about reopening schools.”

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