Teachers ‘appalled’ by governor’s push to reopen schools for in-person instruction

VIDEO: Teachers ‘appalled’ by governor’s push to reopen schools for in-person instruction

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Many of South Carolina’s teachers were shocked by Gov. Henry McMaster’s recommendation to reopen schools for in-person instruction.

SC for Ed, a group that advocates for SC teachers, wants local districts to have the flexibility to temporarily eliminate face to face instruction until the surge in COVID cases slows.

“Teachers are scared to go back to the classroom in these current conditions,” SC for Ed Board member Lisa Ellis said. “To think that you’re going to put a teacher in a classroom, and she’s going to be able to do what’s in the best interest of her students in these circumstances, you’re fooling everybody because that’s not the reality.”

SC for Ed members urged that face to face instruction cannot happen while the pandemic persists.

The group’s leaders said they are saddened, disappointed, and appalled by what they called, “Today’s careless and dangerous statements on the part of Governor McMaster.”

SC for Ed officials believe the governor is abusing his power by pressuring the state’s superintendent of education to deny any districts’ plans that don’t include an option for face to face instruction for reopening.

“What we want as teachers is that it’s virtual until the state gets the cases under control and that’s going to take everybody,” Ellis said. “Then, we will happily go back into the school building and teach the children the best we can.”

Instead, many questions remain about how teachers will be expected to educate children this fall.

“If we’re expected to teach in person and virtually, you’re asking us to create two separate lessons…because what teachers are able to do face to face is not what they are able to do virtually,” Ellis said. “You’re now asking teachers to do twice as much work for frankly less pay because they’ve frozen our salaries.”

Some teachers felt disregarded by the governor’s message about how teachers responded to unprecedented changes in the spring.

“We just felt like the governor and others were saying that we failed from March to the end of school in providing virtual instruction, which is not the case,” Wando High teacher Leanna Rossi-Potter said. “We overcame a quick change on a dime to do what we do for our students and to say that we failed is completely discrediting our profession and hurts us.”

Teachers continue to feel like their voices and worries are not being heard by state leaders.

“We realize that we as teachers are now being threatened,” Ellis said.

SC for Ed has condemned the governor’s message as hypocritical.

“To all of a sudden sit there and say we are concerned about our most vulnerable children; we’re concerned about the mental health of our students; we’re concerned about them being physically abused…you don’t get to ignore us for two years when we’ve been screaming at the top of our lungs about these issues, and then all of a sudden, bring it up because you need your economy to open back up,” Ellis said.

SC for Ed is conducting a survey of teachers to find out how comfortable they feel returning to face to face instruction.

So far, more than 5,000 teachers have responded, and nearly 70 percent say they are fearful to return to their classrooms at this time.

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