Teachers in the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) will be required to teach students remotely from their classrooms when classes resume Sept. 1. Teachers with children are now having to find child care when availability is already limited due to the novel coronavirus.
Alabama Educators Association UniServ Director Abigail Davis said teachers are concerned about what to do with their children if they can’t access or afford adequate day care. She said some principals are allowing parents to bring their children in their classrooms as long as they aren’t disruptive, while others say only MCPSS employees will be allowed inside.
MCPSS Director of Communication Rena Philips said teachers who are having issues finding child care should contact their principals, as the district has an “internal plan” for that.
The CARES Act allows employees whose child care provider is unavailable to take 10 weeks off at two-thirds of their standard pay, up to $200 per day.
Davis said if many teachers choose this option, provided they are financially able to do so, it could lead to a shortage of teachers, putting a greater load on other teachers whose class sizes will increase.
Some teachers are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Being required to work in their classrooms could pose a greater risk than working remotely, especially if other teachers can bring their children to their classrooms with them.
Michelle Holloway is a teacher in MCPSS and has been fighting breast cancer since May 2018. During the pandemic, she has only left home to visit her doctors.
“I don’t understand why we can’t [teach] from our home,” she said. “We did it fourth quarter.”
Holloway said she was concerned for her personal safety. She wouldn’t bring her child with her to her classroom because of the increased risk, and thinks she would be safer if other people made that same decision.
“All of my doctors have stated how it’s safer for me to be at home,” Holloway said.
When adapting education to the pandemic, Davis said there is always going to be a downside. Allowing children into their parents’ classrooms puts high-risk teachers at greater risk, while restricting entry to MCPSS employees could lead to a shortage of teachers and increased class sizes for everyone else.
“There isn’t a right answer,” she said.
Philips said the district decided to require teachers work from their classrooms so all of their materials will be available to them. This includes SMARTboards, cameras, a stable internet connection and specialized equipment like lab equipment for science teachers. Classrooms will also be sanitized daily.
“By not having 54,000 students in the schools, our goal remains the same: to help flatten the curve of coronavirus cases in Mobile County so we can return to school for the second quarter,” Philips said in a statement.
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