Pinellas County parents and teachers are continuing to push back against the district for assigning teachers to both in-person and online classes, taught simultaneously.
Under the district’s “simultaneous” learning program, in-person students receive what is supposed to be traditional classroom instruction, with a teacher present delivering daily lessons. But at the same time, online students are viewing the class online, facing challenges with tech glitches that can render audio unintelligible or video feeds inaccessible.
In some cases, it’s also difficult for online students to ask questions as they would in-person. It can also take away from in-person learners as teachers have to consistently check-in on their online students.
A parent-led petition has garnered nearly 2,600 signatures as of 4 p.m. Tuesday. The petition calls for an end to simultaneous learning and to have teachers either provide in-person lessons or online, not both.
The parents argue that’s the way the plan was originally presented.
However, the district shifted its plan in favor of ensuring small class sizes to accommodate COVID-19 precautions and ensure adequate social distancing in classes. Schools, in many cases, wouldn’t have the resources to dedicate teachers to online and still maintain small enough class sizes.
But parents, and many teachers are undeterred.
Comments on the petition range anywhere from a blunt, “fix this sh*t,” to complaints about degraded learning opportunities for students and overburdened teachers.
Some argued teachers are being forced to take on twice the work without twice the pay.
“My kids will both be attending in-person classes and the idea that the teachers will have to split time between online and in person (while also trying to keep everyone safe) is asinine, and shows just how much the leadership of this state HATES the real people who live here,” one petition signer wrote.
Teachers chimed in, too.
“Double the work,” one teacher wrote. “District did not prepare us for the new learning management system.” She wrote the situation has “been God awful.”
Teachers are managing multiple online platforms to manage online learning including things like Canvass and Teams. Students have to be entered into the visual classroom from a virtual “waiting room.”
Some students have reported not being able to get into a class while teachers have had trouble, in at least some situations, admitting students.
Troubleshooting takes time away from students in the actual classroom while virtual students may miss necessary course instruction arising from technical hiccups.
The My PCS online option was billed as a vast improvement on hastily cobbled together online learning provided all students in the spring.
Unlike that scenario, online students are attending classes through a schedule just like what they would have if they were attending school in-person.
But to accommodate potential tech glitches during the week, teachers have given Fridays to students as a catch-up day where virtual class attendance is not as rigorous.
That means in-person classes also have lax Fridays, basically shortening the school week to four days.
The overall message in the parent petition is simple: both teachers and students deserve better.
Deputy Superintendent Bill Corbett told the Tampa Bay Times the district has been in communication with the local teachers union and is exploring options. But as of Tuesday, none had been identified.