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Online and in person: Teachers say they can't keep up

(Logo) empty classroom, truancy. York City School District has struggled with student truancy issues, recently remarking a need for more school attendance officers. The district is considering a grant-funded partnership with York City Police for a truancy officer to help with particularly difficult cases.

York County teachers are drowning in workloads brought about by juggling virtual and in-person classrooms, and they are calling on administrators for more time to plan.

But parents say it should not come at the expense of in-person learning days.

A handful of South Western teachers on Sept. 23 proposed a change to the district’s hybrid schedule: replace an in-person day with a virtual one — meaning it would go from three days in person to two.

A virtual Friday would give teachers an opportunity to assess growth — as teachers are having a hard time gathering data to see if learning is happening, said high school social studies teacher Eric Barshinger.

South Western High School ninth grade students take part in the Junior Achievement STEM Summit, Wednesday, February 26, 2020. John A. Pavoncello photo

“That feedback loop is really critical,” said Amy Kauffman, an intermediate school teacher, student achievement specialist and digital mentor.

Although the two-day hybrid is a model several neighboring districts already use in response to COVID-19, when faced with the prospect of having more than 100 days wholly online, parents pushed back, saying virtual education is lacking and students are falling behind.

More:Where they stand now: York County school reopening plans 2020

Resident Darlene Potts started a petition to reinstate in-person learning all five days, and it had more than 500 signatures as of 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Casey Doyon is a single parent with children in South Western School District. She is also a Dallastown Area High School teacher.

Doyon said taking away one day in the classroom could be doable in the short term but not indefinitely.

“She cried herself to day care this morning,” Doyon said of her daughter, who begged her to quit her job. “She doesn’t want to teach herself.”

Though many parents have expressed support for teachers and their growing responsibilities, they argued there must be a solution that doesn’t take away from in-person learning time.

South Western’s school board agreed to table a vote on switching the hybrid schedule in favor of surveying parents and exploring other options before making a decision.

But no matter what is done, a solution is needed, teachers say.

Dallastown Area Education Association President Ellen Connelly at a Sept. 17 meeting said no one could deny teachers’ desire to stay in the classroom, but she urged administrators to take a second look at how the system is organized.

More:Dallastown Area board rebuffs superintendent's recommendation against in-person classes

Workload has tripled at the expense of health and personal relationships, she said.

Connelly suggested the district allow teachers classrooms with virtual and in-person students at the same time so they wouldn't have to plan for two sets of students.

For South Western elementary school teacher Wendy Currey, education is a "revolving door" as students come to and from quarantine, and it's hard to play catch up and keep schedules straight between multiple groups.

Barshinger said as a 14-year teacher, he used to be able to reuse lessons and focus on student understanding.

Now with extra time spent on creating digital content and Zoom meetings, he's doing at least three or four jobs for 65 or 75 hours a week, and there hasn't been much time.

Connelly said there needs to be time to meet as department heads and grade levels, collaborate with supervisors and troubleshoot.

"We have our CliffsNotes and our instructions, our web tools, our educational games and our tutorials to read and review every night after we are done preparing content, contacting parents, assessing daily work and communicating with a fellow teacher, counselor, psychologist, nurse or administrator about a need a student may have," she said.

"What we don’t have is time," Connelly said. "We need time to sustain what the district has directed us to do for our students."