SCHOOL NEWS

Teachers say concerns over distance learning going unanswered

By ARDEN BASTIA
Posted 11/11/20

By ARDEN BASTIA As the return to in-person learning slowly unfolds through all grades, the current hybrid model frustrates many Warwick teachers. Kindergarten through grade 5 has made a partial return to in-person learning. Students are learning

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SCHOOL NEWS

Teachers say concerns over distance learning going unanswered

Posted

As the return to in-person learning slowly unfolds through all grades, the current hybrid model frustrates many Warwick teachers.

Kindergarten through grade 5 has made a partial return to in-person learning. Students are learning virtually twice a week, and meeting in the classroom twice a week. Mondays are still reserved as professional development days for teachers. Students are divided into two groups, so only half the students are present in the classroom at a given time. Secondary students and teachers expect to return to the classroom, although a timeline for secondary education is currently unknown.

With this model, teachers must plan, prepare, and teach both distance learning students and in-person student simultaneously.

The public comments during the Oct. 27 school committee meeting were overwhelmingly from teachers. Teachers shared their thoughts about distance learning, but were also critical of Chairperson Karen Bachus’ comments at the special school committee meeting on Oct. 20. Bachus stated she received numerous remarks from parents along with copies of teacher’s schedules “indicating they are hardly meeting during the school week.” Bachus also stated that teacher salaries have not been cut, and she expects a full teaching day from the teachers.

Jaime Fratus, a third grade teacher from Holliman Elementary who has worked in Warwick for 20 years, wrote about her struggles with the distance-learning schedule.

“If I could, I would spend every minute of my day teaching my students instead of chasing attendance, begging parents and caregivers to help their children attend just one meeting, being a guidance counselor and psychologist, and helping families avoid meltdowns, or persuading students to hand in just one assignment in the week.”

“Please note, the last thing I do before bed and the first thing I do in the morning is check my email,” said another Warwick teacher, Mary Hayes. Hayes described a day of back-to-back Google Meets with students and parents in the morning, and an afternoon of planning, grading, and well as monitoring a department night, where she offered extra help to students who need it.

“I want you all to know, we are working harder than ever before. I go home overtired, under appreciated, and upset on most nights…Please take this extremely seriously,” said Hayes. She voiced her opinions regarding the recent plan for teachers to instruct both distance learning and in-person learning at the same time.

“Right now, I am available to my students all day long. Once I have students in front of me [in person], I will not be able to just log on and work with them whenever they need. I do not want my students to feel how I feel. Our children deserve a proper education.”

Since the Oct. 27 school committee meeting, few of the teacher concerns have been addressed, according to Darlene Netcoh, President of the Warwick Teachers Union. She says that teachers aren’t being “included or accommodated” in the conversation about returning to the classroom. “Teachers have bought their own webcams, document cams, cameras. Teachers were thrown into the classroom without any discussion of what technology they may need,” said Netcoh. There was talk from the school committee about sending a survey to teachers regarding the hybrid model, but so far, no action has been taken.

Warwick teachers are asking for distance learning specific classrooms. Those teachers who are immune compromised or taking precautions should be paired with students who are only distance learning, according to Netcoh. “We need to be matching distance learning only teachers with distance learning only students. That needs to be done. We’re seeing our teachers getting burned out, we’re seeing other teachers in other districts getting burned out, and that’s not good for the students.”

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