WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Students at Airport and Brookland Cayce High Schools showed up on Friday, but some of their teachers didn’t.
In a statement released Friday, Lexington School District stated:
“Lexington Two has a higher than normal number of teachers at Airport High School and Brookland-Cayce High School who requested personal illness leave today -- roughly less than 20 at each school. Both principals worked diligently to arrange for substitutes for all classes, and the instructional day is proceeding on a normal school-day schedule.”
It’s unclear exactly how many teachers called out.
WIS spoke with three Airport High School teachers on the condition their identities be withheld. They expressed concerns over retaliation.
On Wednesday, the district transitioned its non-virtual students to five-days-a-week in-person learning, which is something the teachers said put them and their students at risk.
“For the first time in my life, I am seriously considering a career change, and I’m devastated by that because I do feel like I make a difference, but I don’t feel comfortable at work, and not feeling comfortable at work, I don’t think is healthy,” the teacher said.
Another added: “Anybody that thinks that this is some type of return to normalcy is just fooling themselves. We’re not seeing the teaching benefits that you would expect to be able to, hopefully, in the relatively near future get back to.”
Previously, the district had offered a hybrid-style learning program for families who wanted their students in the classroom, where time was split between online and in-person.
The teachers said the transition has spiked anxiety over safety for both them and students.
“I also am a very staunch advocate for teaching kids to stand up for themselves if they think that something is not being done that is correct,” one teacher said. “I think that by teachers coming together and saying I don’t necessarily think this is the right way to do this, we’re not only advocating for ourselves. We’re advocating for our students.”
The decision to transition the district came in an Oct. 27 board meeting, and the teachers said they had repeatedly expressed their concerns since.
The three teachers said they want the school board to revert to the hybrid model and use community COVID-19 data to inform decisions.
They said they recognized five-day in-person would be the best for students but not during the dangers of a pandemic.
The district sent the following statement in response to WIS’s request for comment on the teachers’ concerns:
“Every day, for the past many months, we have evaluated daily our schools and classrooms for the best instructional plans amid COVID, using guidance from a number of sources on issues ranging from recommended PPE to managing cases and exposures to classroom/school closures, should that become necessary.
“We are currently operating with 5-day face to face and our full-time Virtual Academy. As we have phased-in students, we have encouraged student families, employees and others to share concerns with their principals and through district surveys. We fully expect discussions with employees and families to continue, as will our daily evaluations of school data, and we will make any adjustments as needed.”
It’s unclear if or when the district will make changes to its plan, the next board meeting is January 21.
The call-outs come after a similar conflict in Lexington-Richland School District 5, where teachers calling out resulted in the closure of three high schools for a day.
That school board subsequently voted to return the district to a hybrid model.