‘On the verge of walking out’: Sarasota County teachers say concurrent model isn’t sustainable

Coronavirus

SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – School in Sarasota County started a few days ago, but some educators say they are already overwhelmed and exhausted by the new way of teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers knew this year was going to be a challenge with social distancing, extra sanitizing measures, technology issues, projecting their voices through a face mask for hours on end, and juggling students both in the classroom and at home — something the district is calling concurrent learning.

Four days into the new school year, some concurrent teachers aren’t so sure the teaching model is doable long term.

“I am worried that after a month or two of this, teachers that are really trying their best are going to start breaking down because it is not a sustainable way of teaching and we will burn out,” said Sarasota High School teacher Sarah Sturzu.

President of Sarasota Classified Teachers Association Patricia Gardner tells 8 On Your Side she’s been getting emails and teary-eyed phone calls one after another since school started Monday.

“They are finding they can’t give the attention to both groups. They just don’t feel like they are doing the job they should be doing and they feel the kids aren’t getting what they deserve to get on either side of this,” said Gardner.

The messages speak for themselves.

“I cannot sleep due to the stress,” wrote one teacher.

“Concurrent teaching does not work. I am literally working two jobs for the price of one. I am working two jobs with the stress of ten jobs.. I will not survive this school year if something doesn’t change,” wrote another teacher.

“I am watching the life be sucked out of my colleagues as they struggle to cope with the trials of concurrent teaching. This day to day grind we are working through is insurmountable. Never have I and my colleagues felt so tired and drained and it is only the 3rd day of school.. Many have been crying, having panic attacks, and nervous breakdowns. We cannot continue in this manner,” said another teacher.

“A lot of these emails have gone to the district, have gone to superintendent, have gone to the administrators over there so they are aware,” said Gardner.

8 On Your Side asked district leaders if they’re considering changing the concurrent learning model in Sarasota Schools. We did not receive a response by 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

“I don’t know how they are going to keep this up, day after day, week after week. This is only the fourth day of school,” said the union president.

Gardner says there must be change.

“Someone needs to rescue them from this or else you’re not gonna have teachers. You already don’t have teachers, look how many left anyways and now you are just not gonna have any if you don’t do something to make it better for them,” said Gardner.

Sturzu admits she was surprised by the incredibly challenging environment.

“I was calm going into this. I was like, what will be will be, we will handle it one step at a time, roll with the punches, that is what we have to do as teachers, but when you actually get into it and you feel that stress on your body and on your brain. It makes you realize that this is more than just trying to stop the germs. There is a lot going on at school. I think sometimes people lose sight of that,” said the high school teacher.

Gardner continues asking for patience from families.

“Be as supportive of your teacher as you can be because this is really hard on them and they are really all doing the best they can in this county and it is very difficult,” said Gardner.

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