WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The way teachers run their classrooms right now is much different than ever before, and most educators say it's not working.
Many teachers in Palm Beach County are doing simultaneous teaching, instructing students both in the classroom and online at the same time.
A new survey from the Classroom Teachers Association, the teachers' union in Palm Beach County, found that 93.1% of educators polled said simultaneous teaching should be eliminated for the 2021/22 school year and replaced by "pure virtual-only classes and pure physical-only classes."
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"It's been rough," said Stephen Berlanga, a theater teacher at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach.
Berlanga said that as more students have returned to his classroom, teaching them and those online at the same time has not gotten any easier.
"There is more demand for the students who are in-person who want to participate and are actively participating, and then the students at home who I have to still make sure I'm giving attention to and I'm making sure they are paying attention," Berlanga said.
Berlanga added it's a true balancing act that is always uneven.
"I'll find myself focusing more on the in-person students," Berlanga said. "With the way my cameras are set up, it’s a side profile when I'm not looking at the camera. So I'm either giving a side profile to the in-person students or to the virtual students."
"Simultaneous teaching cannot exist next year," said Justin Katz, the president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.
Katz is pushing for the School District of Palm Beach County to eliminate the dual teaching method.
"It was a band-aide that got slapped on the problem this year because no one knew exactly how to deal with what was going on," Katz said.
A newly released survey from the Classroom Teachers Association of 3,170 educators showed that 94.4% of teachers said simultaneous teaching harms the ability of the average student to "learn effectively."
In addition, 94.4% of teachers said they're a "less effective educator" when taking part in simultaneous teaching, and 74.6% of teachers said they've seen increased levels of cheating on classwork, homework, tests, and quizzes during simultaneous teaching.
"You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who says that it's a great practice and we need to continue it. So I think the district understands," Katz said.
The School District of Palm Beach County released this statement to WPTV about simultaneous teaching and the CTA survey:
"The District acknowledges and appreciates that teachers are working harder than ever while simultaneously teaching students in-person and via distance learning. From an efficiency and engagement standpoint, in-person instruction is the preferred modality. Decisions regarding the modality of instruction in the fall will be based on governance made at the State level and science regarding the pandemic. The District is currently actively discussing various scenarios and options that would ultimately be made in the best interests of students and staff."
To see the full Palm Beach County Classrooms Teachers Association survey, click here.
Palm Beach County mom Maureen Alvarez started a social media campaign called FullTimeInSchoolPBC to find out how other families are handling the simultaneous teaching atmosphere, and to push for change.
"My son is not experiencing some of the things I'm speaking of in my campaign, but I don't know that that won't be the case when he gets to middle school," Alvarez said.
Alvarez hopes the school district will soon announce what to expect for the fall.
"I really want to make an informed decision about that, and I can tell you I'm not the only one on the fence," Alvarez said. "A lot of parents have made the decision that if it stays the way it is, they won't stay with the district."
"My students they are struggling with the hybrid model as well," Berlanga said. "They’re doing their best, God bless them all, but they really are struggling."
The Florida Department of Education has yet to make an announcement about whether distance learning related to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue next school year.
However, just last week, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran hinted that distance learning in its current format may not be in place for the 2021/22 academic year.
"The goal is to get everyone back in the classroom," Corcoran said during a news conference in Pinellas County. "We've always, even pre-pandemic, we always funded online. So, we would just go back to the traditional funding levels for face-to-face and online."
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