Teachers call for law that protects against having to teach virtual and in-person simultaneously

Teachers call for law that protects against having to teach virtual and in-person simultaneously
Teachers call for law that protects against having to teach virtual and in-person simultaneously(Emily Wakeman)
Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A newly passed bill by house lawmakers mandates that all schools in South Carolina offer a five-day-a-week in-person learning option by April 26th, as well as a five-day-a-week in-person model next year as well.

However, some teachers are saying the revised bill doesn’t go far enough. The original bill, called S.704, prohibited school districts from making teachers teach students virtually and in-person at the same time for the next school year.

“It would have no impact on this school year, but for next school year it would prohibit districts from requiring teachers to teach students in-person and online at the same time unless there was an extreme and unavoidable circumstance,” Patrick Kelly, the Palmetto State Teachers Association Director of Governmental Affairs, said. “In which case, districts could use that model, but districts would have to compensate teachers for effectively doing two jobs at one time.”

The original bill also removed the earnings cap for retired teachers who return to the profession to help fill the staffing shortages this year. The revised bill doesn’t include this either.

“We’re really saddened and disappointed to see those provisions struck out by the House,” Kelly said.

The dual-modality model is something many districts implemented this year in order to accommodate students who opted for in-person, as well as those who wanted to learn from home.

Teachers said the dual-modality instruction essentially means doing two jobs at the same time, and it’s a reality many teachers say they’ve struggled with this year.

“You’re teaching two separate classrooms at the same time, and your planning takes considerably longer because you have to find formats that work for kids in both ways,” Chris Hass, a Richland Two Second Grade Teacher, said.

Kelly said the Palmetto State Teachers Association surveyed over 1500 teachers, and half of them indicated they teach a dual-modality classroom.

Teachers said it’s a detriment to students’ learning.

“For the kids who are virtual and the kids who are spread out across the room, (in order) to be able to see the materials and demonstrations, everyone is on their computer all day long whether you are in the classroom or at home,” Hass said.

Kelly said it’s going to cause teachers to leave the profession.

“Over half of our members told us that if they were asked to teach in a dual-modality model, both in-person and online at the same time, over half of our members said they will leave their current school,” Kelly said.

The current bill has now been sent back to the Senate. The Senate can vote to make further changes, but any changes would then need to be approved by the house before heading to the Governor’s desk.

Kelly said as far as the timeline of the bill passing, many teachers would like clarity on if they are going to be expected to teach both in-person and virtually before they have to sign their contracts in mid-May.

SC for Ed called out on Twitter for educators to contact state senators about the amendments to the bill.

“Educators, please contact your state senators & let them know that passing S.704 without prohibiting dual-modality teaching should be a nonstarter. Further in circumstances where teachers must teach by that method they should be paid a stipend for the extra planning required,” SC for ED said in a post.

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