Saturday, November 26, 2022

Back to school amid the coronavirus: Some local teachers have to make a ‘personal choice’

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

Local teachers may have to make a tough decision this year.

As school districts across the Peninsula gear up for the fall, some faculty members may have to choose between their health and their job.

Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, said teachers have until Thursday (July 23) to let the school district know about any accommodations, such as medical conditions, needing a specific mask and personal protective equipment.

But there are limitations.

“Just saying you have an accommodation, doesn’t mean you don’t come to school,” Cox said.

The school district currently has four options for the fall and if there are students who express an interest in online learning, those teachers could possibly fill those slots.

However, the school district doesn’t know which learning plan will be used in the fall and what their staffing needs are, Cox said.

If the district decides to have in-person classes, teachers who are uncomfortable teaching in-person will be dealt with on a “case by case basis,” Cox said.

If virtual opportunities are not available for teachers who feel uncomfortable returning back to school, Cox said “then that would have to be a personal choice for the teachers.”

Cox declined to elaborate on what that “personal choice” entails, saying only the district is hopeful they can help teachers feel comfortable.

The district’s commitment has to be providing the best education for its students, Cox pointed out.

Being an online teacher is “very rigorous,” she said, and teachers may not be used to the workload of teaching virtual classes for the entire year.

“We have great teachers and we would like nothing more for them to continue being our teachers,” Cox said. “It really depends on how many students are enrolled and taking part in the online program.”

But what about York County?

“It’s kinda a fluid situation” said Katherine Goff, spokeswoman for the York County School Division.

She said teachers are expected to share their accommodations, which can include scheduling hours, making sure the staff member isn’t around others in a large group and PPE.

It would also depend on the employees’ job duties and will be evaluated on a case by case basis, Goff said.

But what if a teacher is uncomfortable returning to school? Would the teacher have to quit?

“We’ll be working through that on case by case basis,” she said. “The division’s number one priority…is our students’ and staff’s well being and safety.”

“Because if we don’t have a workforce, if we have more employees who need accommodations than able to come in, that would inform some decisions we need to make to support our students and our families.”

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Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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