Students in the classroom; students at home. Disinfecting things, maintaining social distance. And a shortage of Chromebooks and high-speed internet access. It all adds up to overstressed Cincinnatus teachers, their union president said this week.
Classes started up earlier this month with most Cincinnatus students coming to the classroom, but some opt to learn remotely, said Melissia Custer, president of the Cincinnatus Education Association, the district teachers’ union. It makes teachers feel like they’re working two jobs, she said.
Couple that with an order of 150 Chromebooks that have been on backorder for students, among other things, and that’s where problems start showing.
“Teachers are getting taxed socially and emotionally,” she said, and hopes the district’s administration can help.
Superintendent Todd Freeman said that the district’s administration is working with teachers to address these issues, but didn’t provide details.
“We are still working to improve synchronous learning and connecting with the students that have chosen a remote learning experience,” Freeman said in a statement. “We are trying to maximize our time and it’s hard but our teachers are doing a great job. Let’s remember the fact that we have never done this before. It’s definitely a challenge but we are up for it.”
Teaching both in-person and remotely can mean staying up to 9 p.m. working, Custer said. What free time teachers do have is often used to assist students.
Time, for example, to prepare lesson plans now often consists of talking with parents of students to make sure the students are on track with their work, Custer said. This can cause teachers to lose focus and not teach their best.
Custer, who also teaches fourth-grade math, is a prime example.
“There are days I come in super excited, but then I come in to teach and I think, ‘Oh, I’m not prepared to teach my best,’” she said.
Teachers, she said, have not had the same luxury as workers in other businesses that remained open throughout the pandemic in learning how to adjust to working in-person with the changes in protocols.
“We’re still learning how to be in school,” she said.
Remote learning as well has been an issue for some families because Cincinnatus lacks much access to high-speed internet, and many students live in dead zones, she said.
The district has worked to create internet hot spots throughout the town to alleviate that, but they may not always be equally accessible.
Custer also cites inadequate planning for the start of the school year due to a short time frame from when plans had to be submitted in early August to the start in September.
One example of this is how lunch works. The district only has one cafeteria so when students have lunch, some eat in the cafeteria while others eat outside or in classrooms. What happens when the weather turns cold?
“Every day, we’re trying to solve what to do next,” she said
Freeman said lunch procedures, among others, will be adjusted as necessary.
The students themselves have been happy to be back, but Custer wondered if any of the wariness of the teachers will have an effect on the students.
“I want them (the administration) to look at every student in the district and make sure they are all getting an equitable education that Cincinnatus Central School District can provide,” she said.