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Open Letter: Teachers say Clarke Co. school reopening plan not equitable

We applaud the Clarke County district office for valuing students’ lives, but when will our leaders understand that in order to nurture students, they must give their teachers, mentors and coaches the same respect?

Please consider us. Teachers’ working conditions affect students’ learning conditions, after all. This fall, it appears Clarke County students may not be learning from many working parent teachers, because our input, it would seem, has been ignored. Involve us in our collective challenges. Support us, so we can do what we do best.

In the Spring of 2020, Clarke County teachers adopted a new schedule without hesitancy during an international pandemic. We worked strange hours because many of our students act as childcare for their younger siblings in our Title 1 district. Our students would teach their siblings, or work jobs to provide for their families, or sleep until noon, and we would teach them whenever they reached out. We Google Met with students faithfully, and late into the night we answered all sorts of students’ questions. For example:

“My father lost his job. We aren’t getting a stimulus check because he is undocumented. We need to open a bank account, but the bank refuses to cash this check. Could you help?”

“ I lost my scholarship because of the Coronavirus. I’m embarrassed to ask so late, but could you write a recommendation by tomorrow?”

“ I had to move in with my mom throughout the quarantine, and I‘m angry. Can you find me a counselor?”

“We can’t make our rent payment. What should we do?”

When the world shocked our student’s lives, we stood in the gap without question, and continued to support and educate them.

Last week, the Clarke County School District announced we would begin school after Labor Day, and that our district would remain digital for all grade levels.

Teachers were thrilled. We had 50 days to prepare to teach virtually. We were determined to do it right. Please note as evidence, social media posts of teachers buying supplies to build at home classrooms, with whiteboards and decorations. Alongside teachers’ efforts, Facebook groups sprang up overnight to demand “public pandemic pods,” where children of similar ages would learn in small groups in community spaces. Many teachers volunteered their time to go into those spaces and tutor.

Just yesterday, the wind was knocked out of our sails, when we were told (five days after the rest of this county’s parents) that we had to secure childcare so that we could come to our buildings to teach digitally five days a week beginning directly after Labor Day (Phase 3). Why? So that we could deliver synchronous instruction on Zoom in our classrooms on a fixed schedule with mandatory teacher attendance. This model is certainly not equitable.

Teachers now have a short two weeks to find childcare, as we report to work when Phase 2 begins, in advance of online classes. We were told, if we couldn’t come to the building and teach, we had to have a doctor’s note proving pre-existing conditions or apply for the Federal FFCRA extensions that provide two weeks of paid leave and 10 weeks of ⅔ paid leave for parents when their child’s school is closed and telework is not available. Many teachers are rightly concerned about this policy. The community had 53 days to secure childcare, when teachers had only two weeks.

CCSD is an employer after all, and has every right to have us work our contracted hours. But why did they not treat us as professionals, and tell us early enough to find a safe place for our children? Requiring us to work five days a week in our brick and mortar classroom doesn’t make sense when there are no elementary or middle schools open in this city. Many parents need to be at home for their elementary age children as they negotiate digital learning.

The best case scenario according to the scientific community is that we stay at Phase 1, fully virtual. However if this is not received, we propose staying at Phase 2. As long as the students are not back in the school house, we should only be required to come into the building twice a week. This way, CCSD will ensure that precious childcare spaces are left for parents who cannot do their jobs remotely, and reduce the number of staff that is in our school buildings at any given time, lowering all of our risk of contracting Covid-19.

From over 100 proud educators,

Brent Andrews, Cedar Shoals High School

Stephanie Arford, Early Learning Center

Jan Arnolds, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Melissa Authement, Barrow Elementary School

Grace Ayer, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Amit Bharucha, Cedar Shoals High School

Caroline Bharucha, Cedar Shoals HighSchool

Jennifer Biddle, Whit Davis Elementary School

Michelle Beatty, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Felix Bell, Coile Middle School

Kelli Bivins, Cedar Shoals High School

Alana Blankenship, Clarke Middle School

Anna Bray, WhiteheadRoad Elementary School

Allison Brown, Howard B Stroud Elementary School

Jill Buchanan, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Dila Chambers, WhiteHead Road Elementary School

Angie Chambliss, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Brittany Dillard, Cleveland Road Elementary School

Marina Doneda, Barrow Elementary School

Bianca Douglas, Barrow Elementary School

Marie Eskridge, Coile Middle School

Amy Evans, Chase Street Elementary

Jesse Evans, Cedar Shoals High School

Sayward Evans, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Washonda Foote, Cleveland Road Elementary School

Rita Foretich, Barrow Elementary School

Aaron M Farnham, Cedar Shoals High School

Natalie Ferando, Chase Street Elementary School

Jennifer Arca Fishburn, Clarke Middle School

Bethany Forester, Alps Road Elementary School

Heather Garland, Clarke Central High School

Lori Garrett- Hatfield, Cleveland Road Elementary School

Rachel Gauna, Whit Davis Elementary School

Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals High School

Rebecca Glenie, Clarke Middle School

Kira Graves, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Christine Graziano, Cedar Shoals High School

Sarah Ghosheh, Whitehead Road Elementary

Ariel Gordon, Cedar Shoals High School

Kim Green, Whit Davis Elementary School

Bri Harnish, Whit Davis Elementary School

Sparkle Harper, Barrow Elementary School

Stephen Hinson, Retired Clarke Central High School

Greg Huberty, Cedar Shoals High School

Tanya Hudson, Chase Street Elementary School

Laura Lee Johnson, Cedar Shoals High School

Graham Jarboe, Clarke Middle School

Jennifer Jones, WhiteHead Road Elementary School

Lauren Knowleton, Whit Davis Elementary School

Lindsey Lush, Chase Street Elementary

Karen Macdonald, Whit Davis Elementary School

Marci Maglitz, Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School

Joey Marrow, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Kelly Mason, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Stephanie Maxwell, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Shanna McGettigan, Whitehead Road Elementary

Ashley Morgan, Whit Davis Elementary School

Sarah Mundy, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Hannah Parr, Clarke Middle School

Kyrsta Pokosk, Early Learning Center

Jennifer Pope, Whit Davis Elementary School

Joy Smith, Howard B Stroud Elementary School

Lee-Ann Stinger, Cleveland Road Elementary School

Heather Jarboe, Whit Davis Elementary

Jennifer Jones, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Joakima Johnson, Early Learning Center

Katie Johnson, Cedar Shoals High School

Heather Parish Julian, Clarke Central High School

Cherly Makemson, Cedar Shoals High School

Kelly Mason, WhiteHead Road Elementary

Andy Plemmons, Barrow Elementary School

Michelle Rabold, Clarke Middle School

Allison Moody, Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School

Megan Moriarty, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Grant Moro, Cedar Shoals High School

Sheena Mason Moro, Cedar Shoals High School

Ashley Na, Clarke Middle School

Brenden Nordgren, Cedar Shoals High School

Evelyn Rushing, Whit Davis Elementary School

Paul Selew, Coile Middle School

Catherine Shinholser, Chase Street Elementary School

Mudiwa Smith, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Allison Still, Whit Davis Elementary

Sarah Parido, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Tina Patterson, Clarke Middle School

Amanda Price, Clarke Central High School

Cori Pringle, Clarke Central High School

Brenda Poss, Retired Cedar Shoals High School

Melanie Powers, Whitehead Road Elementary School

Ashley Purnell, Cleveland Road Elementary School

Ginger Stickney, Burney Harris Lyons Middle School

Gabrielle Tull, Gaines Elementary School

Mayra Velez, Early Learning Center

Amy Walden, Clarke Middle School

Amy Walker, Whit Davis Elementary School

Ashli Walker, Cedar Shoals High School

Keith Weaver, Barrow Elementary School

Antonia Welch, Gaines School Elementary School

Raquel Wymbs, Early Learning Center

Quentori Wynder, Howard B. Stroud Elementary

Lauren Wood, Hilsman Middle School

Chris Woodward, Clarke Middle School

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