The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 1:00 am

Teachers favor delay to start of FWCS year

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers overwhelmingly support delaying the start of the academic year – a survey finding that their union representatives plan to share with district leaders today.

Educators want to return to work, but they want to do it safely, said Sandra Vohs, Fort Wayne Education Association president. She described the Aug. 10 start date as rushed.

“Teachers are saying, 'Hey, we have concerns for ourselves, for our students,'” Vohs told The Journal Gazette on Tuesday.

FWCS announced its reopening plan last week. It includes a fully remote learning option for all students. In-person instruction for middle and high school students also will include remote learning days, while elementary school students will go to school daily. Parents have until July 29 to choose between at-home and in-person learning.

The FWEA created a survey about the upcoming year so union representatives can better represent teachers' interests when communicating with district leadership, Vohs said.

The union hopes the district seriously considers teachers' input, which will be shared through Zoom meetings today, Vohs said.

FWCS is aware that FWEA surveyed its members, said Jennifer Atienzo-Fisher, marketing and communications director.

In a survey posted Monday, more than 90% favored delaying the school year, Vohs said, noting there were more than 1,700 responses by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Vohs noted the percentage reflected the overall results, which included some input from non-teachers. The majority of respondents identified themselves as FWCS teachers, she said.

The survey also asked teachers whether they are considering not returning to their position because of health concerns; their comfort level with the FWCS reopening plan; and whether they would support a virtual start for all students, among other questions.

Teachers could also select why they support a delayed start. Options included to allow adequate time for scheduling adjustments based on parent preferences; to avoid the extreme heat of August when requiring people to wear masks; to consider additional and updated data regarding COVID-19, such as community infection rates; and to provide “rehearsal” time for new daily cleaning and sanitation practices.

Many details and questions need attention before classes resume, Vohs said. She said the district's variety of programs, such as those through the FWCS Career Academy, complicates preparations.

A delayed start would give educators more time to prepare and train for the year ahead, Vohs said.

She said she wishes Gov. Eric Holcomb would mandate that all schools open after Labor Day.

“It seems like we're rushing to reopen for no good reason,” she said. “We need teachers to be comfortable.”

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