CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some Charleston County teachers are pushing back after school district officials said publicly they have a choice about teaching in-person classes.
“There’s definitely a lot of teachers who are not comfortable teaching in person with students that are going to be teaching in person starting Sept. 8,” fourth grade teacher Emily Reichbach said. “I’d say the choice part is definitely not being seen across all schools.”
Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said last week teachers won’t be required to teach in-person classes at the start of the school year if they don’t feel safe.
“He or she would not have to teach in person,” Belcher said. “We are asking folks to come into the school. All of our staff is to report unless they have a medical condition, in part because we want to make sure we’re doing it really tightly this year.”
Reichbach said she was able to have a conversation with her principal about whether or not she felt comfortable teaching in person, but she said many teachers she talked with haven’t been given the same options.
“It seems like principals aren’t getting too much guidance from the district. They’re just getting expectations they have to meet which might be, ‘We need to serve these kids in person,‘” she said. “So principals, not that it’s their fault, but aren’t giving teachers that choice when they have to deliver certain expectations.”
In total, she said she talked with more than 20 other teachers about this issue, but she said many were too afraid to come forward.
“[The district is] trying to fight for public education and make it look really good, and I think we do miracles with very little resources, but you have to be careful on what promises you’re giving. Because, you can’t deliver on all of them,” Reichbach said. “So I wouldn’t say lying, but definitely not being honest whether their intentions are good or bad.”
Elementary School Executive Director Michelle Simmons said Wednesday she was surprised to hear the claims. She said any teacher with a concern should reach out their principal and if unsuccessful should reach out to the district.
“We do not want to force teachers into a position or situation where they don’t feel comfortable,” Simmons said. “At wholesale, the message to building-level principals has been to work closely with your teaching staff to match as best you can who wants to come face-to-face with their students and scholars and how can we best serve the families that also prefer.”
Reichbach has said she’s willing to return to her classroom and hopes teachers get more of a say over the next few weeks.
“I think we really need to start getting creative, and for real getting teachers speaking out, because we need them to be at the table constantly having an open avenue of conversation,” Reichbach said. “It would avoid a lot of problems.”
Teachers just finished up their week and half of work days and will return to their classrooms on Aug. 31. Students are set to return Sept. 8.