Teachers rally as Gwinnett County Schools announce school will start virtually

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The Gwinnett County School Board has reversed its decision on a hybrid model and will start the school year with all virtual learning.

The school year is still set to start on August 12. Gwinnett County is the largest school district in the state.

“There is no replacement for face-to-face instruction, and that was our preferred model for starting the school year,” Superintendent J. Wilbanks said. “With that in mind, we offered parents an option between in-person and digital instruction in order to be responsive to their wishes for their children. However, out of an abundance of concern for our students, families, and employees, we made a very difficult decision based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our county, as well as the concerns that have been expressed by our teachers, parents, and others in the community.”

The school district said digital learning will look different from the spring term. The digital school day will follow a daily schedule.

Teachers will still have to report to the actual school building.

Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes was in Gwinnett County, where many teachers protested Monday.

About a hundred teachers and other staff members who marched in the heat were very happy to hear students will be staying home, but now, they’re concerned about why they are still having to report to school buildings.

“Today we did hear, and we’re so excited w’ere going 100% virtual, however, staff will be required to come to the building,” one teacher said. “So we are still fighting for the staff to have the option to work from home.”

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said teachers at each school will work with their staff members to address individual concerns about being back in school buildings. He realizes some teachers may have to stay home with their children, who will also be learning from home.

The group of educators protesting Monday said they feel like the they did not have enough time to prepare for all-virtual learning, but they want parents to know that everyone will get through this together.

“We want parents to understand, we know your kids will have academic struggles and they’re going to have mental health struggles, and that’s why it’s so important that we build community partnerships so we can meet financial need and mental health needs,” teacher Anthony Downer said.

Another huge concern for those teachers is the fact that all students don’t even have access to WIFI or a computer right now, so they won’t be able to start school prepared.

Teachers said today that at least 3,000 students aren’t prepared to learn from home right now.

“I believe as of March, there were 3000 of our families who don’t have internet access,” a teacher said. “We need to be able to stand in the gap, reallocate some funds – and be able to help our families so that all are successful.”

Teachers said that no matter what, they are going to fight for every family.

“We’re not lowering our standards. we’re not leaving our families behind by going to digital,” Downer said. ” The work is going to be heavy. The burden is going to be heavy, and we’re ready to get started.”

The school board previously decided Thursday night to keep plans in place to return to in-person classes with an option for digital learning.

The majority of the board showed support for the plan with the exception of member Everton Blair, Jr.

However, a few days later, a second board member came out in support of starting the school year digitally.

Mary Kay Murphy released a statement Sunday.

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