Teachers’ questions linger as Nassau schools eye reopening

Educators and support staff express concern about risk & workload

The plan details three options for elementary (Pre-K-5) and secondary (6-12) students: brick-and-mortar school, school-based distancing learning and Nassau Virtual School.

YULEE, Fla. – The day after the Nassau County School Board unveiled its reopening plan, questions remain for educators and parents alike.

The plan details three options for elementary (Pre-K-5) and secondary (6-12) students: brick-and-mortar school, school-based distancing learning and Nassau Virtual School.

Jamie Vinneau, president of the Nassau Teachers Association, knows the state left local counties without a lot of time to prepare. And she still wants answers about teachers’ workloads, which could include juggling in-person, hybrid and online learning formats.

RELATED: Nassau County’s back-to-school plan includes 3 options

“There’s a lot of questions surrounding teachers on who’s responsible for that model,” Vienneau said. “Is it the classroom teacher? Are we going to hire virtual teachers? I think the plan is kind of weak. Who is responsible for what, and what are we really going to be doing?”

When News4Jax asked ahead of Thursday’s meeting about the workload for teachers, Superintendent Kathy Burns said she is meeting with neighboring counties’ superintendents to discuss how to balance the workload between on-campus and online learning.

“We certainly don’t want to overwhelm anybody or any of our employees,” Burns said. “We want to work together for a safe and healthy return to teaching and learning.”

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Vienneau has three kids in the Nassau County school system and said she’s letting them decide which option they want to do in the fall.

“You can imagine the number of interactions we’re going to have on a daily basis,” Vienneau said. “What are we going to bring home? So it’s not even what’s just in our school, what are we bringing home to our families?”

Under the first option, traditional brick-and-mortar school, K-12 students will go to school as normal five days a week. Pre-K students will go to school as normal four days a week. Early release days will continue to occur every Wednesday.

As part of the second option, school-based distancing learning, students will remain attached to their current school while receiving instruction online. Teaching will mirror the pace and rigor of the traditional brick-and-mortar school. The school district said students choosing this option should make a semester commitment. For secondary students, according to the school district, all courses will not be available through school‐based distance learning. For courses not available through school‐based distance learning, students may take the course through Nassau Virtual or Florida Virtual School.

The third option is Nassau Virtual. Students who chose Nassau Virtual will withdraw from their traditional school and switch their enrollment to Nassau Virtual. Students selecting this option should also make a semester commitment.

It’s not just teachers who face exposure if students return to school campuses. Bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers worry about putting themselves and their families at risk.

“I’m concerned about them, I really am,” Marian Phillips, president of the Nassau Educational Support Personnel Association, said.

It remains unclear what measures school districts will take to protect school support staff.

“I just want to assure them that the union is working hard to make sure that the HEROES Act is passed, that they don’t lose their job,” Phillips said. “Because that is a big concern right now: what are you going to do about these employees who just cannot come back to work?”

According to the school district, the plan is still just a draft at this point.

School board members say this is a fluid process and there will likely be things changed as it works to find the best options to keep schools safe.

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