COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some Richland One teachers say they still have a lot of questions about what the start of the school year will look like.
The South Carolina Department of Education initially approved the district’s plan to start virtually, contingent upon Richland One offering an in-person option by September 14th. But Monday, the Department of Ed removed that arbitrary September 14th deadline and will instead evaluate options for in-person learning every two weeks, starting August 31st.
Some teachers say they’re worried they’ll have to transition to in-person teaching before coronavirus case numbers decrease. “We feel afraid because we’re walking into the unknown,” explained a Richland One teacher who’s been in the profession for several years. This teacher and two others wanted to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.
Next Monday, August 17th, Richland One teachers will be required to head back into the school building. All teachers are required to work inside their classrooms during virtual learning, which has left some concerned about safety and childcare. “I think it doesn’t make sense. If we are virtual and we are in the building, we are still being exposed to other teachers,” said another anonymous Richland One veteran teacher. “We don’t have anything in writing. We don’t know what the plan looks like, so therefore, we can’t make plans for our own children. Where we will put them when school starts?”
Richland One says teachers will be provided PPE, and the district is exploring options to provide a safe place for staff members’ children to complete virtual studies while they are at work. But some teachers with underlying health conditions say that’s not enough. “We are very dedicated to our jobs, and the fact that we have to make a decision to resign for something that we love, that’s kind of heart-wrenching for us. We love the profession so much, but our health comes first, and I mean the safety of everyone, not just us.”
With three weeks until the first day of school, teachers who’ve applied for Richland One’s Virtual Academy still don’t know if they’ve been accepted. “We don’t know whether we’re going to get a phone call, whether we’re going to be selected, or if you sign up you’re actually in the program. No answers.”
Richland One officials say they are going through applications for virtual learning right now to determine staffing needs. They say teachers will receive additional information this week about the start of the school year.
Some teachers are also concerned about how cleaning procedures will be implemented because they say they were required to clean their own classrooms at the end of the last school year. Richland One says the district has not updated its ventilation system, but schools will be cleaned and disinfected per DHEC guidelines.