Some Sarasota County teachers still waiting on new equipment to welcome back remote learners

Coronavirus

SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Teachers across Sarasota County are eager and anxious to welcome students back into their classrooms on Monday, but not everyone feels fully prepared.

Concurrent teachers will have new technology in their classrooms to help run class efficiently for both in-person and remote learners. Just a few days away from the first day of school, not everyone has received the equipment they were expecting.

8 On Your Side obtained an email sent to school administrators Thursday morning. In the email, district Information Technology Director Joe Binswanger writes, ‘unfortunately the ship coming across the Pacific Ocean from China with our 800 additional camera, stands, and speaker/microphones did not make it as fast as we had hoped’.

Sarasota County School District officials tell 8 On Your Side the district has already deployed 1700 cameras, stands, and microphones into classrooms district-wide. The district says between 50 to 75 concurrent teachers are still waiting on their equipment.

“Enrollment for students in-school vs. remote has been continually changing. The 800 pieces of tech mentioned in that message are devices for those classrooms that were not originally identified for (but now need a set-up for) concurrent remote instruction OR will be used as back-ups devices if we went full-remote down the road. That small group of newly-designated concurrent remote instruction teachers will need to temporarily use their built-in webcam and microphone on their school district laptop. There will still be connectivity and access for both the teachers and the students,” said district spokesperson Kelsey Whealy.

Elementary school teacher Katelyn Wenmark says she is one of multiple concurrent teachers at her school who didn’t receive the equipment. She is expecting to face challenges during the first week of school when it comes to audio and video quality on the district-issued laptop.

“My team was doing different training throughout the last couple of weeks and practicing with Zoom to try to figure out what it might be like to be a concurrent learner versus an in-person learner. If you are not near that laptop and a student responded to a question, you could not hear them,” said Wenmark.

Wenmark wants to remind parents, she and other teachers will do they best they can with what they have until the new equipment arrives. She says working with the laptop will be challenging because it has to stay hooked up to a docking station at her desk at all times.

“I am going to have to be stationary behind my desk in order to teach. I can’t really reach and help a student who is sitting in the classroom because then if I do, I am now off camera for the remote learners it so it is going to have to be that learning process to say, ‘I will be right back I’m helping someone else’ and that back-and-forth.

The twelve-year Sarasota County teacher admits it will be a lot to handle. She’s asking families for patience and understanding.

“We want parents to know that this is not what remote learning looks like for those teachers who don’t have the equipment yet. This is just something that we are dealing with and we want them to know just know that we have equipment coming, but it is going to be very different right now until we get that,” said Wenmark.

District officials are also asking for patience.

“Our schools have been continually communicating with families about updates to schedules and what classes will look like. They’ve encouraged teachers to be patient with students & families, and have encouraged students & families to be patient with teachers and the school. We are all working together to make the start of school as safe and successful as possible for everyone,” said Whealy.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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