ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Due to staffing issues, some St. Johns County teachers have been leading both virtual students and in-person students at the same time in the midst of the pandemic. Teachers said the set-up left them overworked and frustrated.
Now, as the number of students enrolled in school-based virtual learning has declined, that’s about to change, for some teachers.
The St. Johns County School District said it has started to move some teachers away from the dual-platform teaching model.
“In the fall, we learned a great deal about providing strategies that are sustainable and consistent. So, this semester we have made some adjustments to improve teacher capacity and resources. In some cases, teacher assignments have changed to ensure the best possible classroom setting for brick and mortar and distance learning,” Superintendent Tim Forson wrote in a letter to families this week.
Most of the changes involve elementary school teachers, said Associate Superintendent Dawn Sapp.
“We did recognize that in order for teachers to better support their students it was best for them to be on one platform,” Sapp said. “So where possible, we looked at scheduling and we did make elementary priority.”
The choice was made to focus on elementary students because they often need the full attention of the teacher, Sapp said.
“Our union has been speaking up loudly since the beginning of this year that the dual-platform is just an unsustainable amount of work. And the superintendent listened, and the school board listened,” said Michelle Dillon, president of the teachers union. “I am hoping this will lighten the workload for those teachers.”
The change wasn’t available to all teachers, so there are still concerns about equity, she added. At the secondary level, Dillion said, there are some teachers who might be the only ones to teach a particular subject so it’s more difficult to find teachers for both sets of students.
“Some people might see their workload lightened a little, others not as much,” she said. “This has been an incredibly, incredibly difficult year with not a lot of clear-cut answers, but I do believe this is a step in the right direction to ease the stress of our educators through the remainder of the 2021 school year.”
As of Thursday, there are just over 1,400 K-5 students in school-based distance learning and over 17,400 brick-and-mortar students.