Over 1,000 CCSD Teachers Request Virtual, On-Time Start to the 2020/2021 School Year

A group of Charleston County School District (CCSD) teachers recently sent a letter to the CCSD Board Members, Dr. Postlewait, and all CCSD principals regarding an on-time, virtual start to the school year.

Embedded in the letter are the group's specific conditions and survey respondent data from over 1,000 teachers. The full letter was provided to Holy City Sinner and can be read below:

Dear CCSD Board Members,

We feel that the “2nd Pulse Check Teacher Intent to Return” survey, distributed the week of July 13, intentionally omitted teachers’ specific concerns with a "safe" restart in the two vague options presented. Because we were not able to share our true position and concerns through that survey, we created our own to seek input from teachers who wish to begin school virtually. Our collective position is this: We commit to teach virtually for the first nine weeks of school, at which time the COVID-19 situation will be evaluated, and as infection rates decrease within Charleston County, we will move towards a safe tiered approach to face to face instruction.

We propose these conditions* for a safe, tiered approach to returning to the building in CCSD:

    • 14 day incidence rate of less than 200 infections per 100,000
    • 14 day decreasing trend in incidence rate
    • 14 day positive test percentage rate of 10% or lower

In the past four days, we have gathered 840+ signatures from CCSD staff, overwhelmingly teachers, who support our proposition. Please review:

(a) Our survey: CCSD Teacher Commitment to Teach Virtually

(b) Our spreadsheet with the total number of respondents and schools represented: CCSD School Representation (updated in real time), and

(c) Comments your staff wish to share with you, without fear of repercussion (*please note the number of staff who wished to remain anonymous and consider why that may be so): Survey Comments (updated 7/17/20 9:25 AM)

This data is viewable by anyone with the link and has been published by various media outlets, including the Post & Courier, News 2 and Live 5 News.In addition to what we have advocated for thus far, we propose five additional conditions:

(1) Students should begin the semester on August 18th, 2020. The proposed September 8th start date, advocated by both Governor McMaster and the CCSD Restart Plan, is several days after Labor Day. Several days after tourists will descend upon the city for socialization, and when locals will engage in their last "hurrah" before returning back to school. We will inevitably end up in a situation where virtual learning is the only option, yet we will risk being woefully unprepared. We have heard first-hand from many students who share their concerns of students (on social media) joking about concerned teachers, who plan on not adhering to social distance protocols. According to a CCSD administrator, “We do not see any reason to delay opening virtually. If September 8th comes and it is not safe to have CCSD students physically in school, why would we want to be three weeks behind in building relationships with our scholars, with instruction, and with figuring out what needs to be improved operationally?”

(2) The August 18th virtual start should apply to all CCSD schools. We know that if different schools are on different plans, that creates logistical problems for families who have children at different schools, including teachers whose children attend CCSD schools.

(3) The original parent survey issued in June must be reissued immediately following the 07/20/20 Board Meeting. The numbers from the original survey reflecting a 53% preference for 100% in-person, 5 day-a-week school hardly constitute a majority in a survey that only received 40% of parent responses in the first place. As COVID-19 cases have continued to surge with no decreasing trend, this data collected from parents is no longer accurate. CCSD cannot rely solely on the virtual instruction commitment of 17% of respondents because finer points and details of that instruction have still not been provided. There is also the 33% of parents who indicated a preference for the Hybrid model who now must choose between either virtual or in-person instruction. A 40% response rate is not sound enough to make critical decisions. Each family should be directly contacted via phone or email to seek their decision.

** Additionally, there are many teachers who have students at a CCSD school and do not have the option to choose, who must commit to the plan that CCSD chooses for ALL teachers. As far as we know, only twelve virtual teaching positions exist at the Virtual Academy. What happens to the 800+ who are not comfortable returning to school?

All stakeholders must be clear about a Quarter 1 virtual commitment and that transitions to a different model will be made according to DHEC metrics. Instead of a Yes/No option, each option should offer a clear description of what their selection looks like in operation.

(4) Students should receive the same survey that parents receive. They are vital stakeholders in our school communities and their voices need to be heard. Students of all ages need to understand the reality of a face-to-face classroom right now.

(5) We realize that there are certain populations of our student body that will need additional support in a 100% virtual instruction scenario. These include students who receive special education services and whose physical health is compromised by staying home. We support provisions being made for these students to receive in-person assistance that can be determined on a school-by-school basis. Teachers who feel comfortable returning to the school building can provide these supports, which will supplement the virtual instruction they will receive at home.

As the members of the CCSD workforce, we realize that there are many other conditions that need to be defined prior to the return to school. We insist upon clearly defined safe restart conditions before returning to the school building. We recognize the significance of quality instruction, and if given the time to prepare for a more cohesive virtual learning experience, in addition to funding for the best technology to transmit that instruction, we know that we can provide a dynamic virtual experience for students.

Please take this weekend to thoughtfully review these concerns before your Board meeting on Monday, July 20th. We have seen our survey grow by 200+ respondents each day and we are expecting these numbers to grow over the weekend. We will reach out to you again on Sunday with our updated numbers. Please do not assume that the rest of CCSD staff do not support our position, as we do not have the capacity to solicit feedback without access to all teacher email addresses, and when many teachers are not currently tuned in to email and social media.

All 840+ teachers represented love our jobs and love our children. We miss our jobs and miss our children. We see a virtual restart as an opportunity for CCSD to lead the charge on what innovative virtual learning can look like, what that can inspire in our children, and how that can develop our growth as staff. We can be the model for South Carolina -- please grant us the opportunity to do so, starting August 18th, 2020.

Sincerely,

Teachers and Staff of CCSD Survey Collaborators: Lisa Ahrens, Megan Barbee, Rachel Dangerfield, Charity Scruggs 

References:

*DHEC Metrics 

**MUSC Coronavirus Data for Charleston County 

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