SHERIDAN, Colo. (CBS4) – Teachers in Sheridan School District No. 2 who appealed for remote learning when the plan for in-person instruction moved forward say their requests were denied because their situation did not meet the requirements for approval. The district explained Thursday it had to draw the line at documented medical conditions for employees and their families.
“I think that they’re doing the best that they can but also I think it’s a needless risk,” said Sam Anzer, an English teacher at Sheridan High School.
Anzer moved to Colorado two years ago to be closer to his sister, who has a newborn child. During the pandemic, she has to limit who she comes into contact with at her home. He says if he returns to school this fall, he will have to stop seeing his family.
“Would you risk someone who has contact with 100+ students every single day in your house?” He said to CBS4. “It feels like an obvious decision.”
The district says it is choosing in person learning because 75% of parents told leaders they wanted students to return to their classrooms. Students will be limited to 12 per room and social distancing measures are in place along with required face coverings and temperature checks.
“If we can make an eye-to-eye connection, and we can start building from there,” said Pat Sandos, superintendent of Sheridan School District No. 2 “That’s a permanent connection that we can make with people.”
Anzer says other teachers have expressed concerns about teaching in-person based on their own health or those close to them but their appeals were denied. Sandos says the district approved requests on a tiered system based on the medical condition of an employee, anyone of a certain age, and medical conditions of their family.
But in some cases, employees did not provide proof of their exemption, according to Sandos. For other requests, the district determined it could not afford to have that teacher working remotely because their appeal did not rank high enough in the tier system for exemptions and their staffing needs required a certain number of employees in school.
“I don’t want to leave my kids without a teacher on Monday but what else can I do?” Anzer said.
He not only worries about his health and his loved ones but points out that students in the district often come from low-income families, where parents and guardians are working in high-risk jobs. These families overwhelmingly come from communities of color, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Sandos acknowledged that but also said these families are often unable to provide the supervision needed for remote learning.
“We’re constantly revising and looking at what we’re doing,” the superintendent told CBS4. “We’re going to be doing that with the entire start of the school year.”
He hopes by getting through the first two weeks of in-person learning beginning on Monday, his district can lay the foundation for a school year that could quickly transition to remote learning if needed. Families can request to have their students start remote if they prefer.
Anzer says he has made the request for a leave of absence, essentially resigning from his position, so he can remain close to his family during the pandemic.
“I wish I could do something for you,” Sandos said of situations like his, where teachers want to be remote. “We have to be able to teach and man our classrooms.”