PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Some teachers in Pinellas County are raising a new concern one week before the start of the new school year. Some may have to teach both online and face-to-face students at the same time.
6th-grade middle school teacher Patrick Mugan says one of his classes will be taught simultaneously.
“Simultaneous teaching represents the absolute worst of both ways of teaching,” said Mugan. “With face-to-face teaching right now, the challenge is that we have to do so with all the proper precautions, which we acknowledge make our job difficult. With online teaching, we’re free from some of those restrictions, but now we’re teaching at a distance. With the simultaneous model, we have to teach those online students while also adhering to the restrictions of face-to-face learning, so that includes wearing my face mask. It's going to be very difficult to teach my students from my PCS assigned laptop at the same time as teaching face-to-face students while practicing all the proper social distancing and safety procedures."
After listening to school board meetings, Mugan thought the simultaneous teaching model would be the exception, not the rule, like being used in situations of a teacher who is the only one teaching a certain subject. Some fear students won’t get the proper attention in class.
“If we’re doing [online teaching] at the same time as we’re teaching a face-to-face class, I really just don’t understand how that could be done on a logistical level, how that could be done on an effective level, and how that could be done on a way that gives these students an education that they deserve.”
Nancy Velardi, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president, also worries students won't get a teacher's full attention. She says they’re giving the district the opportunity to continue reducing the number of teachers doing simultaneous teaching. She says if final numbers aren’t reasonable, they could start an official grievance process.
“The bottom line is everyone’s going to get shortchanged. The teacher's attention will be split,” said Velardi. “They will have to address the kids who are actually in the room, but they will also need to be addressing the kids who are virtual.”
The school district explained the reason behind simultaneous teaching is for health and safety and to lower the number of students in a classroom at any one time to protect the students and staff with social distancing. The district says they will have some who are just teaching My PCS Online or face-to-face classes only.
The district also sent ABC Action News this statement on simultaneous teaching:
"We recognized this isn’t ideal but the health and safety of our students and staff are top priorities and this meant rethinking teaching assignments. Teachers will not have larger classes than usual. The difference this year is that for some teachers, some of their students will be in-person and others will be online. By keeping the total class size the same as previous years teachers will still be able to give individual attention to students whether they are online or in the classroom."