In the new age of distance learning, teachers of the Pierce Unified School District are discussing where the virtual classroom should be hosted.
The school board for Pierce Unified released their reopening plans only to go back to the drawing board when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his decree for California schools.
At the PJUSD special board meeting on July 15, the staff had painstakingly discussed plans to address logistics of physical distancing, disinfecting, and other measures designed to protect students and staff on school campuses.
However, the reopening decisions made during that meeting will not be in vain when the school is eventually allowed to open its doors to students. First, the county must be taken off of the state Department of Public Heath’s watchlist for two weeks. In the meantime, school officials have been holding special meetings to readdress the situation now that Newsom took the decision out of the hands of school officials.
“Our reopening plan has taken a backseat because we know that we’re moving into the system’s learning modes,” said Carol Geyer, superintendent at PJUSD. “But it’s still a plan that we must do and need to do, and that guidance we will be following.”
When campuses everywhere were closed in the spring, school staff scrambled to make the transition as painless as possible for the students. Now there is legislation that will help guide the schools that must provide distance learning, such as instruction that includes live interaction between students and their teachers, supportive services for students, and educational standards for each grade.
The school year will still consist of 180 days of online instruction and homework, officials said.
At the special meeting on July 22, new questions arose. The main focus of the meeting was if the teachers should be giving instruction from the classroom at the school’s campus or if they could teach from their homes.
The school board ruling of where teachers will work from is a part of the negotiation process and will need to come to an agreement between the district and the teachers union.
Teachers in favor of working from home cited reasons, such as the cost of having to run the air conditioning, the inconsistency of Frontier internet service, and as Amy Hannon-Korynta, the eighth grade math teacher pointed out, having approximately 30 to 40 teachers who live in different areas all possibly come into contact with each other.
Although the school offered daycare for the children of teachers required to come teach in a classroom, teachers voiced concern with that solution as well.
“I think that it’s a little bit of an unfair request to ask the teachers to put their children in potentially harm’s way when we do have a viable alternative,” said Hannons-Korynta. “I think the easiest solution is to offer teachers the option.”
On the other side of the fence, those in favor of distance learning that originates from their classrooms said they felt that it would help students get a sense of normalcy to show them that school is a safe place. They also thought instructing from the classroom would help teachers to be in a working state of mind and have better access to teaching materials.
“These kids, as well as parents, need to know our ultimate goal is to be back in the classroom,” said Susie Stassi, who has been with the district for 25 years and is a parent to a school-age student. “I want my daughter to know that her teachers are there, available, and ready to go if she needs help.”■