PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Pasco County teachers went back to their classrooms today. Teachers who were selected to teach students on campus are getting ready for them to arrive next week. CW44’s Andrea Alvarez spoke with a Pasco County teacher who says he’s anxious but maybe not in the good sense.
“This is the start of my fifth year, so I’ve been with Pasco County for four years,” said Jeremy Blythe, a teacher Pasco County Schools who started his career in the hospitality industry putting his culinary skills to use before becoming a Pasco County Schools Instructor. “I went from complacent at the hotel I was working at in Orlando to putting up my notice and transferring to a school in Wesley Chapel.” said Blythe “It’s really been, probably some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my life.”
But with COVID-19 putting a halt to his passion, he’s nervous about what happens next.
“I know I can speak on behalf of a lot of teachers; we’re just feeling very anxious. I’m feeling very nervous. I have several high markers so I’m already at an elevated risk,” said Blythe.
Over the summer, the district gave parents the options to send their child to traditional in-classroom learning, use e-learning, or to go virtual. “The biggest challenge that we’ve had is to match up students who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online and teachers who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online. And we’ve been working really hard to make that happen,” said Stephen Hegarty, Pasco County Schools Public Info Officer.
Blythe and other Pasco County teachers began a Facebook group asking that in-person classes don’t begin until positive cases decrease. “We started the group and it just.. it exploded,” said Blythe. “We’re pushing for a safe return to schools. Not that we don’t want to go back to work, not that we don’t want to be with our kids, but we need to do it when it’s safe.”
But Blythe says his main concern now is lack of direction. “We just feel like there has been somewhat of a lack of communication in the sense that there aren’t details. We still don’t know exactly what’s expected of us.”
However, district officials say that’s what this week is for: “Encouraging teachers to spend some time looking over the plan. You need to know exactly what your responsibility is and you need to know what you need to convey to students about what their responsibility is,” said Hegarty.
And because parent response numbers are still shifting, teacher placement could too. “About 65 to 66 percent of parents planned on sending their kids back. Since then, the numbers were down to about 63 percent and that’s been the trend,” said Hegarty.
Blythe says, the bottom line is that some teachers are left with making difficult decisions. “You have a lot of tenure teachers who have been around for 20 – 25 – 30 years in this district, they’ve put their life into it and all of a sudden they’re looking at a situation where, ‘do I retire early because of this? What do I do?’ I think we’re all still faced with a lot of decisions that are… next to impossible,” said Blythe.
Pasco County officials are urging parents to update contact info immediately so that you’ll know when a positive COVID-19 case is detected. Parents, you have until Thursday to make any student placement changes. Then, after one week of school, officials will open that option back up.
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