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Overwhelmed Pinellas County teachers sign petition to change simultaneous teaching

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LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pinellas County Teachers Association said Tuesday that their members are being pushed to the edge.

They said that the school district’s policy on “simultaneous teaching”, when teachers instruct students both in class and online at the same time, is hurting teachers and students alike.

“This is my 35th year of teaching, I love my job, I love the kids I work with but I have never in all my years felt so overwhelmed and almost abused and meaningless…like we don’t matter, it’s very frustrating,” Brenda Hankin said.

Hankin didn’t want to name her school because she feels they’ve been wonderful with working in the constraints they’re giving by the school district, but she said the school district’s decisions have her feeling extremely overwhelmed.

Hankin said she volunteers for all sorts of events, coaches sports teams, and even pays for students’ food out of pocket when they need help.

She said she told the school district before the year started that because of the auto-immune issues she had to teach virtually, but she said the district put her in category 4, with the least virtual priority. “It was a slap in the face,” Hankin said.

On top of that, Hankin said the simultaneous teaching she’s being asked to do is not working well for her or many other teachers and students.

“As a teacher, I feel like I’m shorting my students when I have kids face to face and kids online,” Hankin said.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president, Nancy Velardi, said they started a petition for change on Sunday.

“What we’re hoping is what the district suggested initially in case these kinds of classes had to happen, they were supposed to be a rare occurrence,” Velardi said.

According to the Pinellas County School District, here’s the breakdown of what’s actually happening:

  • 12% of teachers are fully virtual
  • 36% are only in-person and
  • 52% are teaching both ways, simultaneously

Velardi said she thinks they have a solution that would make life better for teachers and students.

“Pull virtual students from various schools, make a full virtual class, this way it relieves the hybrid situation in the classroom but does not increase the face to face number of people in the classroom,” Velardi said.

8 On Your Side reached out to the school board for comment about simultaneous teaching, they said no one was immediately available but that they’re actively working with the union to find a solution.

The school district spokeswoman said they met with the union as recent as Thursday and provided a set of solutions to simultaneous teaching. They said the teaches union sent them a list of ideas Tuesday morning, and the conversations are ongoing.

“I would love any one from the school board to come into my class, you are more than welcome if you can show me a better way to do this I would love that,” Hankin said.

The Union President said they had more than 1,600 signatures within two days, Hankin said she’s one of the teachers who signed it.

To sign the petition yourself or to learn more about it go to the PCTA Website.

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