Upstate teachers ‘torn’ on upcoming school year plans

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Some educators across South Carolina are sounding the alarm. A statewide survey of school employees shows 42% of those polled said they have a high risk of contracting COVID-19.

“I love educating. I love passing along knowledge and creating the next generation of world citizens, or artists or whatever they’re going to be,” said Associate Professor of Music at a local liberal arts college, Dr. Christian Elser.

Dr. Christian Elser is a professor at an upstate liberal arts school. He teaches music. As you can imagine, classes have been a little different lately.

“Had to cancel all of our concerts, everything we were going to do. We couldn’t even rehearse anymore because singing is really dangerous,” said Dr. Elser.

But he’s worried about what this will all look like come the fall semester and he’s not alone. Other teachers also expressed concerns with us, many of who didn’t want their identity released to the public.

Patrick Kelly with the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association told us they’ve been hearing from a lot of teachers who feel torn. He said they want to see their students, but also want to be safe. Kelly said they’ve brought these concerns to Governor Henry McMaster.

“The overwhelming concern is can we keep students and staff safe given the current surge of COVID-19 in our state,” said Director of Governmental Affairs for Palmetto State Teacher’s Association, Patrick Kelly.

Other teachers like Chelsey Burnette, who told 7 News she isn’t high risk, are eager to get back into the classroom as long as it’s done safely.

“I think those teachers that are high risk or have trouble finding childcare, they would be the ones teaching that virtual school,” said Spartanburg Teacher, Chelsey Burnette.

You can find the letter sent to Governor McMaster by the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association below. Additionally, you can find a link to the survey results conducted by SC for ED at the bottom of this web story.

Palmetto State Teacher’s Association letter to Gov. McMaster:

“The Palmetto State Teachers Association is highly concerned about the safety of students and staff in South Carolina given the current growth in the rate of spread of COVID-19 in our state. While our members desperately want to return to in-person instruction with students, our organization believes state and local leaders must prioritize the health and well-being of students and staff above all other policy goals while designing plans for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

To that end, our organization has partnered with the SCEA and SC for Ed to send the attached letter to the following state leaders- Governor McMaster, Superintendent Spearman, Speaker Lucas, Senator Peeler, Representative Allison, and Senator Hembree. The letter asks for our state leaders to ensure that two conditions are met prior to the resumption of school operations in the fall.

First, we are asking the General Assembly to fully fund schools in order to equip them to ensure the resources and staffing necessary for safe and effective operations of schools. Regardless of the format and instructional model followed by districts this fall, districts will need additional resources to meet the unique challenges posed by the impact of COVID-19 on our state.

Second, we are asking state leaders to ensure that district re-opening plans are consistent with the guidelines established by the AccelerateED task force. While we believe that re-opening plans should remain under the control of local districts, we also believe the AccelerateED recommendations provide strong and appropriate guardrails for districts to follow to ensure that instructional models ensure safety for students and staff based on the local rate of spread of COVID-19 as determined by DHEC.”

SC for ED information: https://www.scfored.org/

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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