Petition For BCSD Teachers to Teach Only One Pathway

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The teachers of Berkeley County School District have been put in an untenable and unsustainable position. 

Not only are they one of the only districts in South Carolina that is already face to face 5 full days a week, but they are working two jobs for the price of one. Teachers are teaching “blended” which is a virtual pathway including “synchronous” and “asynchronous” work while also teaching in person classes at the same time. This situation is a disservice to the teachers as well as the students. Students deserve an instructional model where the instructor is able to give them undivided attention and assignments that are best geared towards their learning pathway. Teachers who are doing both at the same time are unable to devote the required time to their online learners and their in person learners at the same level. Depending on the split of the class, this means one group or the other is not getting the level of instruction they need or that teachers would like to provide for them. Teachers who are teaching both have no time in their day to review, give feedback, and assess the learning of their blended students. Teaching either pathway requires different skills, assignments, instructional materials, lesson plans, and modes of instruction. To imply that teachers are able to use a “one size fits all” lesson that applies to online learners and in person learners is to ignore the vast differences in the two modes of instruction. The students deserve a teacher who is able to dedicate the time and energy to instruct them to the best of their ability, not one who is drowning under double duty and unable to give attention to either group fully. 

The length of exposure that teachers face with face to face instruction is identified by the CDC as hazardous.Teachers are unable to properly socially distance students. Rosters are not capped at reasonable amounts for socially distancing in the classroom. Many teachers are reporting 15+ students in their classrooms daily without the space to keep them 6 feet apart.  While teachers risk their lives in face to face situations in the midst of the pandemic, they are at higher risk as the stress of managing two different pathways and doing double the work for every class affects their immune system and causes health issues. Teachers have already reported migraines, headaches, stomach issues, and breakdowns. This could also be due to the exposure from the lethal toxins in Rejuvenal, which was supplied by the district and can lead to all of the above as well as birth defects and triggering asthma.  This disinfectant also requires ten minutes to sit in order to be effective.  Veteran teachers are unable to support newer teachers and are overwhelmed along with them. Currently, sanitation procedures are not being followed at many schools.  Teachers remain in hazardous conditions.  The burden of sanitizing the room, especially with dangerous chemicals, should not fall upon the teacher.

In South Carolina, teachers are required to get a separate virtual teaching endorsement that appears on their licensure. This endorsement requires extra courses and is paid for out of pocket by the teachers who pursue that endorsement. Why is the state requiring this sort of endorsement if all teachers are expected to suddenly teach virtually without any support, instruction, or training? 

There have been mixed messages from the district regarding allowing teachers to teach Blended Only or Traditional Only classes. Some administrations claimed the district did not allow this at all. Some administration claimed they were in charge of that decision and acted accordingly. Some administrations claimed only medical exemptions were allowed to teach Blended Only. Yet we know that many teachers in Berkeley County have had their medical accommodations denied. 

There is no clear communication from the district on why and how teachers are expected to dual teach. What is clear is the crying out from hundreds of teachers who are unable to manage these expectations of dual teaching and are burning out at the beginning of the school year. In the summer when the AccelerateEd committee gave its recommendations,teachers were relieved to see the guidance that “Districts should avoid any scheduling scenario where the burden falls on a classroom teacher to simultaneously create and implement traditional and distance instruction for students during the same day.” Berkeley County has ignored this guidance and has placed this undue burden on its teachers. Please sign this petition to tell Berkeley County that for the good of the teachers, students, and all stakeholders, teachers MUST be able to choose to teach one pathway. 

The largest problem that has arisen in this fight for the ability to be our best selves as teachers and only teach one pathway is the question: What if parents want to switch pathways?

Parents should be held to their pathways for at least the nine weeks. They were given adequate time to select the pathway that best meets their needs and comfort level. Switching pathways disrupts the school and classroom community, the student’s learning, and the teacher’s instructional plans. If parents want to switch pathways, they should be made aware that there is a limit to the amount of times they can switch and that their student will be put in a classroom based on pathway rather than teacher. 

Another alternate option would be to have teachers “team up” where one is blended and the other is face to face. If parents switch, they go to the “team teacher’s” classroom. This would ensure consistency in instruction while minimizing disruption to the teachers, students, and classroom community. 

Regardless, switching pathways should not be used to put undue burden on the teachers. Teachers should always be allowed to only teach one pathway. While we appreciate that the district has begun to limit the switching of pathways to the first nine weeks, some teachers have been told to mark students as "virtually present" when not physically in school for various reasons (vacation, dr's appointments) even if they are traditional students.  This adds an extra burden on the teacher to plan, not only for the blended students, but to have these materials accessible in the event that a traditional student desires to be "virtual for a day."  While we understand the need for students to be virtual while quarantined for purposes of safety, it should not be used for other excuses and should not add to the burden of teacher workload.

All this is to say that teachers deserve the right to choose to teach ONE pathway only. When a teacher is able to devote all of their resources and attention to one pathway, amazing things can happen! Lesson plans become engaging and innovative rather than relying on the convenience of being able to work for in person and online simultaneously. Teachers are less exhausted and less likely to get sick from the stress level. This allows for consistency as there will be less teachers out sick or leaving the profession over the stress of dual teaching. Students benefit from teachers who are able to put forth their best effort without the strain of extraneous demands and a dual workload. 

Set teachers and students up for success by signing this petition. We, again, reiterate that teaching both pathways simultaneously is a disservice to the students and teachers.  We want the best for our students and to retain quality teachers.  This will not happen under the current conditions.

By signing, you agree that teachers MUST be able to choose to teach ONE pathway. You agree that parents should be held accountable for their pathway choice and limits should be put upon switching pathways for the good of all involved (particularly the students). You agree that the Berkeley County School District has put an undue burden on teachers and must rectify this immediately by having teachers teach ONE pathway only. You agree that teachers have been put in a hazardous situation by the district and that risk must be mitigated through proper social distancing, mask wearing, and sanitization processes and understand that this may cause roster changes and limit availability of pathways.  

***While the district may not be receiving calls regarding this specific petition, many teachers have reached out to the district and been reprimanded for those actions.  This petition allows all voices - parents, teachers, students, active community members, family, and friends - to be heard regarding the dual teaching policy***