Remote learning has created a huge workload for teachers, area educators say, but in some Nebraska districts, teachers are simultaneously teaching students sitting in their classrooms.
This approach, juggling remote and in-person teaching, has raised concerns among teachers unions.
It is an approach that Omaha Public Schools officials are eyeing when their schools reopen.
Since the beginning of the school year, teachers in the Millard Public Schools have been teaching remotely and in person at the same time and at all grade levels. Several Millard school board members say that combination is asking a lot of teachers.
“Doing remote learning and in-class teaching at the same time is stressful on the teachers,” Millard board member Mike Pate said at a board meeting last week. “They won’t, they can’t, continue to do things that way for an extended period of time.”
The Millard board president, Linda Poole, who teaches in the Papillion La Vista Community Schools, said she spent 25 hours over the Labor Day weekend trying to catch up on schoolwork. She said educators all over Millard are doing the same thing.
Another Millard board member, Dave Anderson, said teachers are under “tremendous stress” juggling remote and in-person teaching.
“I’m not exactly sure how well that works, to the point of keeping kids engaged in front of you at the same time keeping kids engaged at home, and the disruptions that happen between those different environments,” Anderson said.
OPS began the school year remotely. But officials are planning to bring students back to school buildings for the second quarter of the year, which begins Oct. 19.
Under the Family 3/2 Model, OPS students will be divided into two groups, each of which would attend school in person part of the week.
“We are planning for a model that allows teachers to facilitate instruction for their students in person and remotely simultaneously,” Melissa Comine, the district’s chief academic officer, told the school board last week.
Robert Miller, president of the Omaha Education Association, said that means teachers will be tasked with teaching an in-person classroom of 10 to 15 students and an additional 15 students virtually.
“The teacher must instruct, manage behaviors of those in class and virtually while still maintaining 6 feet away from students,” Miller said.
Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin said the remote learning option is a short-term solution, one his district needs right now for medically fragile students and those who must quarantine.
“At least now, they can continue to get their education,” he said.
Tim Royers, president of the Millard Education Association, said concurrent teaching is “a real heavy lift for teachers.”
They are doing their best to “find their groove,” he said, but it takes a lot more time to plan, grade and give students feedback.
Sutfin said he agreed that teachers are stressed.
To alleviate stress on teachers and give them more time for planning lessons, Sutfin has proposed altering the calendar to add three planning days, on Sept. 25, Nov. 3 and Jan. 4. He said he would ask the school board to approve the change at its next meeting.
Royers said additional planning time “was the most requested thing” among the district’s teachers.
“Teachers need time to plan, and they don’t have a lot of that right now because of added supervision and cleaning requirements,” he said. “Those workdays give them dedicated time to build lessons and collaborate with others.”
The Lincoln Public Schools are offering synchronous remote learning, meaning remote students connect to their classes via the Zoom app at certain times during the school day.
Lincoln high schools are on a rotating 3/2 schedule to reduce the number of students inside schools each day. Students are divided into two groups that alternate attending in person for three days one week and two days the next. High school students Zoom into their classes during the days they do not attend in person.
For teachers, juggling the two types of teaching has been “a heavy lift,” said Rita Bennett, president of the Lincoln Education Association.
It has greatly increased the workload, she said, and it requires more preparation time.
Teachers want to serve both sets of learners and do it well, she said.
“Unfortunately, with trying to do them both at the same time, it has proven quite challenging,” Bennett said. “And teachers are very frustrated, in general.”
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