POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Amid a class action grievance and with a tied up tech support hotline, Polk County Public Schools welcomed back nearly 100,000 students Monday, both in-person and online.
Latest numbers show more than 43,000 students returned to campus learning in Polk County.
Face coverings are required for all students, teachers and staff. Temperature checks will be done at random.
One of the students returning was Renedra Gatlin’s son at Kathleen Middle School.
“He’s been in for four months. No PE. just game playing, so he needs to be back interactive with the class, learning academics and definitely PE,” said Gatlin.
As Polk County’s first day of school wore on, parents began showing up outside Davenport Elementary School, which reopened Monday for the first time since 2009.
The parents needed help.
“We can’t get logged in to the computer with his password, it won’t even log in,” said Margaret Wright, a grandparent.
Wright said one of her grandsons logged on easily and was in class. The other didn’t have such luck.
When the family called a new tech support hotline for e-learners and their families (863-733-0331), they spent hours on hold.
“We keep getting hung up on. We sit and wait, and then it gets down from 78 to 1 minute and then they hang up,” said Wright.
Parents were advised to first call their school’s network manager before calling the tech support line.
A school district spokesperson told 8 On Your Side there were no reports of “major systemwide” issues.
“We are having some pockets of difficulty. I’m not sure if it is a parental log-in where they don’t understand case sensitive, with putting in passwords and user names,” said Shannon Brown, Davenport Elementary School principal.
Meanwhile, the teachers’ union argues some teachers are being forced to return to campus against their will.
“We’ve got to make sure that our folks, that we value them,” said Stephanie Yocum, president of Polk Education Association.
Some teachers, she said, resigned last week after their request to teach remotely was denied.
“They were being told ‘yeah, your medical situations is valid but it would put a hardship on the school so we’re not gonna approve it’,” said Yocum.
Yocum filed a class action grievance against Polk County Public Schools citing a lack of an appropriate appeals process.
“People have been directed to send in an appeal to the email and then 2 to 3 hours later they get a denial again without knowing what the actual process is,” she said.
The school district declined 8 On Your Side’s request for an interview but told us requests to teach virtually due to a medical condition are being reviewed by the district’s ADA committee.
“Polk County Public Schools has established an appeal process for teachers and other employees whose request for an alternative work request due to a medical condition has been denied,” wrote spokesperson Jason Geary in a statement. “Employees can submit a request for an alternative work request due to a medical condition by visiting the Staff Portal.”
Requests that are not medical-related are being dealt with by individual school administrators.
“Ultimately, a school’s administration must determine how to staff classrooms while considering the preferences and circumstances of their employees. School administrators are responsible for making those school-level decisions, and they are not tracked by the district,” wrote Geary.
In a recorded message, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said she is working with the health department to prevent coronavirus spread.
“Will there ever be a case of coronavirus, as you see there will be. But we’re doing our best to mitigate that. We have all of our cleaning supplies, our solutions,” said Byrd.
Parents and teachers will be notified of any coronavirus cases at their schools by phone and by email.
To learn more on that, visit https://polkschoolsfl.com/newsrelease/covid-19-communication-procedures-for-pcps-schools/.
- Pilot who passed out leaving passenger to land plane, speaks for first time
- Florida doctor allegedly tried to buy sex slave with bitcoin: FBI
- Possible Memorial Day meteor “storm”
- ‘Warrior’ teacher Eva Mireles killed in Texas school shooting
- 19-Year-Old makes history as the youngest Black law school graduate in the country