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Manatee County To Abandon Simultaneous Teaching, Preserve Hybrid Option

Superintendent of Manatee County Schools Cynthia Saunders
SCREENSHOT: Manatee County Schools
Superintendent of Manatee County Schools Cynthia Saunders

Manatee County Schools will stop asking teachers to instruct both in-person and remote students at the same time, as more children seek to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms in the second quarter.

Going forward, teachers “will not be expected to be teaching multiple modalities within the same period,” superintendent Cynthia Saunders said during Tuesday evening's board meeting, acknowledging concerns from teachers and their unions that the demands were too much.

“Teachers were willing to do whatever they could, but after a quarter, I think many have realized it is a lot for them to be expected to teach many different methods simultaneously,” Saunders added.

The district will also take steps to preserve the hybrid option — originally designed to help prevent overcrowding in schools — for students who want to attend class in-person some days and remote other days.

Last week, Saunders recommended abandoning the hybrid model, which includes around 8,000 students in Manatee County, but board members rejected that idea.

Saunders warned the model will be dropped if schools can no longer make it work.

“If schools have enough students that are requesting hybrid and they can schedule it, it will be available,” Saunders said.

“It will have to be done on an individual school situation,” she said.

Wednesday is the deadline for parents to respond to a survey indicating if they’d like to change their children’s current enrollment from remote to in-person, or vice-versa.

Officials said elementary and middle school students increasingly want to come back to classrooms, after some started the year remote learning from home amid concerns about the coronavirus. High school enrollment has moved in the opposite direction, with slightly more students opting for remote.

Saunders said 80 percent of elementary students now want to be in brick and mortar schools, along with 65 percent of middle schoolers and just under 50 percent of those in high school.

“We are bringing back more students into the building. We of course have to bring teachers back into the building to accommodate so we do not have overcrowded classes," said Saunders.

"We want to make sure we have everything balanced.”

Students who have been enrolled in e-learning will likely get a different teacher if they return to school.

Bus routes needs to be changed, and some classrooms and teachers re-arranged, so Saunders said it may take until the first part of November for all changes to take effect.

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Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.