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Sarasota Monday, Sep. 28, 2020 3 weeks ago

School district considers two days off for students

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Superintendent Brennan Asplen proposed Oct. 12 and Nov. 18 as two planning days for teachers.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Tara Green has worked more than 60 hours a week since school began.

The science lab teacher at Tuttle Elementary has had to prepare lessons and labs for approximately 700 students who are both on campus and learning from home.

To allow the same opportunities for all students and be cognizant of COVID-19 precautions, Green has had to prepare individualized lab plans for each student, which means she’s had to find supplies for each student. 

She works late grading papers and preparing take-home boxes of supplies for at-home students, and she uses Sundays to prepare online materials.

“Where my lesson plans might take a couple of hours, now it’s hours upon hours upon hours every week,” Green said. “Now I bring my laptop home every night and work through dinner because there’s just not enough hours to get everything accomplished in a way that would be effective for the students to learn.” 

Green is not alone. Hundreds of teachers throughout the district say they are working long hours, despite being paid for 37-40 hours a week.

To address the situation, Superintendent Brennan Asplen proposed giving students two days off this fall to allow teachers additional planning time.

Although it still needs the school board’s approval, the district has planned for no school for students Oct. 12 and Nov. 18.

In a letter to parents, Asplen wrote that the beginning of the year has been challenging for everyone, particularly for teachers. 

“Our teachers have dedicated their time, hearts and expertise to implementing instruction in this environment,” Asplen said. “They are working nonstop and require additional time to plan with colleagues, create lesson plans, and, in some cases, receive additional training with technology and concurrent teaching methods.”

The district’s concurrent learning method requires teachers to use videoconferencing technology, which often includes a microphone and other attachments, to reach students at home.

Custodial staff also will use the days to clean facilities without students present. Oct. 12 will be for deep sanitization, while on Nov. 18, staff will apply fresh application of OmniShield, a 90-day disinfectant.

The two non-student days will not extend the district’s calendar year, though some parents criticized the short notice. 

Green, however, said the two extra days would help her prepare her lesson plans for that week, which might allow her to have a Sunday off.

Green, however, said the two extra days would help her prepare her lesson plans for that week, which might allow her to have a Sunday off.  

“We really need planning time every week, but this is a good start,” Green said. “I’m really glad our voices were heard by the superintendent and the Sarasota County School Board.” 

The board will vote on the proposal and the two chosen dates during its Oct. 6 meeting. 

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