COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to organizers with SC For Ed, about 350 cars showed up for their ‘Motor March’ in downtown Columbia Monday afternoon.
The cars drove past the Governor's Mansion and State House, blaring their horns and displaying signs. Members of the grassroots teacher group said they don't think it's safe for in-person instruction in South Carolina.
“We shouldn’t have to put our lives on the line to be teachers,” said Nozsa Tinsley, a teacher at Center Inquiry School. “We love what we do. But, we also love our families, and we want to go home to them.”
The group is asking school districts and officials to do virtual instruction. Board Member Lisa Ellis said the Motor March and week full of events were scheduled in reaction to the Governor’s suggestion for five-days in-person instruction and a virtual option for parents.
Teachers would come back if the conditions were ideal. But, they believe virtual instruction will save lives. Supporters of the five-day instruction option centers around lost students from this past spring, and the potential for an academic slide. Ellis hopes those that make the decisions do not judge what could happen this fall based on previous experience.
“I figured out what works for my students,” said Ellis. “I’m going to do the things that worked this fall, and now that we’ve had time to think about, it can enact other things.”
Not every teacher felt moving virtual this past spring failed to help students progress academically. Elizabeth Barcha, a special education teacher in Georgetown County, firmly maintains her peers put forth great effort in challenging times.
"It's interesting because I see lots of what did not go right," said Barcha. "No one on these surveys asked me if I had a successful experience. I had many. And, my co-workers, their contact, work, efforts were tremendous."
Barcha said it was hurtful that some state leaders publicly diminished the quality of their instruction and effort to close out this past school year. She states teaching virtually is not ideal, but amid a pandemic, saving lives matters more than teaching face to face. She worries about her grandchildren's health and well-being, as well as all students should they return to the classroom.
"I believe there's not one student or grandchild that is expendable," added Barcha.
Family weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of many teachers. Robin Bowman, a special education teacher in Florence One School District, worries about bringing home COVID-19 to her husband if in-person instruction resumes too soon. Her husband is a cancer survivor with only one lung.
"If I bring this home, I might very well be kissing my husband goodbye," said Bowman.
She posted a sign on her vehicle that read, "I will get between a student and a bullet." She never thought her work would risk the life of her husband and family.
"I never meant to bring that bullet home with me to affect my family in the same way it would affect me," said Bowman. "I'm afraid to go into my classroom. I'm afraid I will view my students as little weapons in front of me, instead of the little people that they are."
“I would ask the Governor to please place people before profits. Please place lives before learning.”
To clarify, the Governor only suggests parents should have the option to send their child back to school five days a week. School districts and the Department of Education ultimately decide how to proceed.
WIS did receive this statement from a spokesperson for Governor McMaster:
“The Governor appreciates the enthusiasm and passion of teachers today – as well as the courageous leadership of the four school districts approved to offer five-day in-classroom instruction. With the option to choose between in-person or virtual instruction, parents in those districts are no longer faced with choosing between their children and keeping their job.”
To date, State Superintendent Molly Spearman has approved six district plans.