TEQUESTA, Fla. — Half of the teachers at a Tequesta preschool have resigned following the decision to keep masks mandatory for teachers and staff, regardless of vaccination status, for the upcoming school year.
The resignations have left school leadership scrambling to fill their positions, and nearly 80 families looking for a possible backup school for their preschool students.
First Presbyterian Church Elder Tim O'Neill said at least six of the dozen teachers at the school resigned after Penny Rogers, the school's director, resigned and sent the following note to parents:
It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform you I am resigning as Director of First Presbyterian Preschool effective August 11th.
The Church Leadership and I have arrived at a very recent impasse due to the restrictions and mandates to be imposed upon teachers and our families for the upcoming school year. It breaks my heart because I have poured myself into this little school for almost 12 years.
Unfortunately, at this time I feel it is best for me to remove myself from the situation as the measures to be implemented are contrary to my personal beliefs and principles.
I would like to leave you with the fact that I have truly loved being the Director of the Preschool these past eleven- and one-half years. I have enjoyed every morning at the gate greeting your eager learners – it has brought me unspeakable joy to get to know your families and get a glimpse into your lives. I loved this job and all of you, it has been a privilege serving you.
I will miss you all tremendously. You will always remain in my heart and prayers and will probably see a lot of you on the lacrosse and football fields with my grandbabies. You are truly the BEST families ever!
God, family, country always……
"It's really unfortunate that this happened this close to school starting," parent Neil Hingle said.
Hingle has sent three of his children to the school and hoped to send his fourth.
"Our kids love going to school there," Hingle said. "The teachers are just incredible. It's a total family there."
That's why he said it's hard to wrap his mind around looking for another school.
O'Neill said the school leadership felt that with the rising COVID-19 cases and fears that new variants could be more harmful to young children, the mask mandate remained in place for teachers and staff.
Rogers' resignation came as a surprise.
"I guess my reaction was a couple of things," O'Neill said. "First, the session tried to talk her out of it."
The teacher departures, he said, were a direct result of Rogers leaving.
"The sole responsibility for the situation we're in falls with the director," O'Neill said.
He is not sure how long it might take to hire new teachers or convince teachers to come back. That means giving guidance to parents about their students' futures at the school is difficult.
"Just try to hang tight," O'Neill said.
That's tough for Hingle to do.
"When you have four kids, any sort of uncertainty is bad or is what we try to avoid," Hingle said.
He worries finding a new school this late in the summer could be tough.
"I just hope that the well-being of our children is kept in mind and the well-being of our moms and families and dads also is all kept in mind," Hingle said.
O'Neill said despite the departures, the school is not changing its mask rules. The school year is supposed to begin in early September.