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Education

Union County's 5-Day In-Person Plan Draws Resistance From Teachers And Families

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Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE
Wesley Chapel Elementary in Union County on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year.

The Union County school board’s decision to bring middle and high school students back for in-person classes five days a week is getting resistance from teachers, parents and students.

Once the state relaxed its 6-foot distancing requirement for grades 6-12, Superintendent Andrew Houlihan suggested bringing students back four days a week. That would match the plan that’s currently in place in elementary schools, with Fridays used for independent work, teacher planning and building cleaning.

But the board voted 7-2 for a five-day plan in all grade levels. Elena Brown, a high school teacher who’s vice president of the Union County Association of Educators, says that was a shock to teachers who have gotten used to having students in front of them four days a week. Houlihan’s plan would have increased the number of students during those four days but preserved Friday flexibility.

"Secondary teachers have to teach in-person and virtual at once, so that takes a lot more preparation time," she said. "And just being able to communicate and try to reach out to our virtual students, meet with PLC meetings — all that was so integral to our success in this in-person hybrid model."

Sixteen-year-old Nikita Talwar, a student at Marvin Ridge High, says she’s also gotten used to working with teachers and classmates four days a week — two in person, two from home — and then working independently on Fridays. She said students have already been through too much change, starting with schools closing a year ago.

"The sudden change is really bad for us — not only the students but teachers and staff," she said. "What the school board is suggesting is to make yet another sudden change."

Talwar and her classmates in the International Baccalaureate program started an online petition asking the board to restore virtual Fridays. She says they’ve been stunned by the number of signatures: 9,000 in two days.

The Association of Educators is also conducting an email campaign in hopes of encouraging a change of plans before the new schedule takes effect.

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