The Hamilton County School Board on Thursday voted to add four more “remote days” to the schedule, with one dissenting voice. The one board member against the proposal was Rhonda Thurman, who brought up the topic of childcare on these remote days.
“It costs money to put kids in childcare, and also it leaves us five days, and we don’t know what is going to happen,” Ms. Thurman said. “Parents have jobs, and they may have to take a vacation or sick day to take care of their children.”
“A lot of kids don’t have somebody (to help them with remote learning), and the childcare people are not teachers and they don’t want that responsibility either.
And you know what, I don’t blame them.”
While fellow board member Dr. Steve Highlander did vote in approval of this recommendation, he did sympathize with Ms. Thurman’s viewpoint.
“Ms. Thurman has a valid point about parents and I respect that,” Mr. Highlander said. “Speaking from a teacher’s perspective, teachers are in a dual role. They are teaching in the classroom and virtual, and they are worn out.”
Board member Karitsa Jones said she has been in contact with teachers from her district, and she wanted to know what the consensus was about needing that time off. She said she wanted to know what other teachers were saying, because her district is in favor of more virtual days.
“Is this something we should survey to see if this would be of use,” Ms. Jones said. “I’ve heard a lot, so I’m trying to figure out if that would give us more time to have a clearer picture on what that would look like. If it would be conducive for everybody. This includes the board members to think it through.”
New board member Marco Perez said every person involved in education, from teachers to parents to students, are under stress right now. He said that while the virtual-only days are intended as a break for teachers, it may end up not serving that purpose.
“I don’t know if they’ll get a break, to be honest,” said Mr. Perez. “Maybe it just means they’ll have more time to record more Canvas videos on that day. But I still think we should be able to provide that opportunity.”
He said retaining teachers is of the utmost importance, and he said the county cannot afford to lose teachers right now in a stressful environment where teachers are often having to teach both online and in person. He said having a few days off to possibly rest could be very beneficial.
Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said the county and schools are in “uncharted waters” and that he said adjustments may be needed. He drew from his experience in college athletics when addressing the board.
“This is me, as a coach, looking at our team of leaders and teachers and students, saying ‘hey, where can we find those moments of reprieve that we’re looking for,’” Dr. Johnson said. “I’ll be frank, I don’t know what we can do, but this is essentially saying to teachers and leaders, ‘I see you.’”
Earlier in the meeting, Joe Wingate was nominated for and accepted the chairman position, which he has held for the last two years. Board member Tucker McClendon was nominated for and accepted the role of vice-chairman, taking over for from District 3’s Joe Smith.