NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Students will receive instruction from home, but teachers in Nassau County on Monday will return to their schools, and the teachers will have to report to their schools two days during the week. They will work from home on the remaining days.
All sixth through 12th grade students will receive their instruction virtually through videos, Google Classroom, and/or Microsoft Teams. Elementary students will receive packets in the mail for eight weeks worth of work along with digital lessons.
Other surrounding districts have mandated teachers work from home full-time like St. Johns, Duval, Baker, Clay and Columbia counties.
Nassau County Superindendent Kathy Burns said during a recent school board meeting that the district is not equipped to just flip a switch and immediately transition into online learning.
According the Nassau County School District, that’s why they are starting teachers out on a blended schedule -- some of the time working from school, some of the time working at home.
Teachers have reached out to News4Jax saying they are worried about the safety and sanitation when returning to school. One unnamed teacher wrote:
Why is Nassau county exempt from this quarantine? Why can the teachers not teach virtually 5 days a week like all of the surrounding counties? Teachers were also told no kids are allowed on campuses to reply on other people or use their sick leave.
The Nassau Teachers’ Association sent a letter to the school board, reading in part:
"After several attempts by Nassau Teachers’ Association (NTA) to work together on a common-sense approach to the current crisis we face, the district has refused to ensure the health and safety of its employees. 'The district seems to be spending more time trying to figure out how to create busy work rather than focusing on how we maintain district operations under the current Coronavirus crisis,' said Chris Pagel, President of NTA."
News4Jax talked with Pagel on Friday, who said at this point, union members will comply with the district’s decision.
"As the union president, if I truly feel that this is just no an absolute safety issue, then that's what I'll say," Pagel said. "But right now, the plan that's been laid out, I understand a lot of people may not really like it. But I was given the reasons why, and I'm going to try to support them as best I can."
Mark Durham, the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, said teachers are staggered different days to come in to cut down on interaction and that no more than ten people will be in a meeting together.
“Teachers that have medical conditions that put them in the CDC category of being most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus may choose to work from home the entire week and will not be required to come on campus for the two days,” the district said in a provided statement.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis closed all school campuses, however, he has not instructed districts to limit staff to only essential employees, which usually means 12 month employees and not teachers.
"I'm just trying to be supportive of Dr. Burns," Pagel said. "We have conversations going on all the time, we have put in a demand bargain so that we can make sure the working conditions are set across the board and everybody understands what we're doing, why we're doing, how we're doing all that kind of information. And right now, there's a whole lot of people that just don't know the answers.
The full statement from the Nassau County School District reads as follows:
“In preparation for online and remote learning, due to the closing of schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of all Nassau County School District students, teachers, and other employees remains our number one priority. In coordination with leadership from the teachers’ and support personnel unions, the superintendent has developed a plan to support our students and teachers as we transition to online and remote instruction. This plan involves a combination of teachers and other employees working on-site and from home. On days that employees work on-site all CDC guidelines concerning COVID-19, including; (1) not having groups of more than ten people meet in the same space, (2) maintaining a distance of six feet in all interactions with others, and (3) all guidelines concerning hand washing and disinfecting surfaces, will be followed. The plan for next week is for teachers to be on campus for two days and work from home for three days. Principals will be developing schedules that work best for their specific schools. These plans will involve staggering days each teacher will be on campus, in order to keep the number of teachers on campus at a minimum. This is the plan for next week. As circumstances change and if CDC, FLDOE, or health department guidelines change the plan will be adjusted to ensure the health and safety of all employees. Teachers that have medical conditions that put them in the CDC category of being most vulnerable to contracting the Corona virus may choose to work from home the entire week and will not be required to come on campus for the two days.”