SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham County public school teachers headed back to the classroom on Monday. This comes after the board approved a phased hybrid re-entry plan.
But not all of the teachers involved say they agree with the re-entry plan. SCCPSS Communication Director Stacy Jennings says about 57 percent of teachers have informed the district that they do not plan to go back to in-person instruction for the remainder of the year. Only 38 percent said they will return depending on the time frame the school board votes on.
District officials tell us that staff has until Wednesday to officially decide if they will return to buildings or remain working from home.
We asked district officials if they know how many students elected to return and they are still calculating that data. They say in total, phase two has more than 14,000 students, which is approximately 40 percent of their student population.
They say families who opted to return to the school will be notified by the district. Officials say if the number exceeds the available teachers they will create a waitlist.
The phased re-entry plan includes splitting students up into two groups by grade levels with in-person learning two days a week and virtual learning three days a week.
Monday’s return for teachers is for them to see what their capacity looks like and how many kids they can actually accommodate.
Associate Superintendent Dr. Vallerie Cave says there are lots of factors that have gone into this plan and still some things they are figuring out, but safety always comes first and instruction second and that’s really what they want parents to know.
“I want the parents to know that every day we plan to serve our children in the best way that we possibly can. We want you to know that the children and our families in Savannah-Chatham County public schools, they mean so very, very much to us and everything we do we think about the children first because schools exist for children,” said Dr. Vallerie.
For those who do choose to return to school for face-to-face learning, they will be required to wear a mask and have temperature checks, as well as sign a waiver. They are also locked into this decision for the semester.
Parents of kindergartners in Savannah-Chatham County still have time to register for school. Starting Monday, Sept. 28, parents can register on the school’s website or by appointment at their assigned school. Kindergartners do have the option to go to school hybrid or virtually starting Oct. 5.
To register your child online or for more information, click here.
For Cherie Dennis, the current teacher of the year, she wanted to get back to her classroom.
“There’s that different feeling of just seeing everybody in person and it’s really invigorating and it feels like you’re kind of coming over the hill, you know you can see some of the light at the end of the tunnel it creates just a tremendous amount of positive energy of everybody,” said Dennis.
While Ms. Dennis has been back for a few weeks she’s still preparing her classroom for phase two students next Monday. Right now she’s not only teaching virtually, but working with school leaders to go over procedures, protocols, expectations and action plans for when students return.
“Parents are sending their children back and they want to know that their children are going to be safe and that they are going to be taken care of and that’s our priority next Monday is making sure that the safety and the wellbeing of all of our students that come back is priority number one. So that’s really what next Monday is going to look like, there will be teaching that goes on, but there will be a lot of teaching about those rituals and routines and procedures that are going to be in place in order for us to safely come back.”
Ms. Dennis typically teaches ESOL. We met up with her class back in February. She knows this year won’t look the same. In fact she’s prepared for it to be very different even if she gets new students and more.
“Every year there is that chance that you could be moved to a different grade level, that you could be moved to a different school. I mean this is a year where it’s much more complicated and those chances are greater but it kind of comes with the territory.”
Ms. Dennis says despite the unknowns, she is excited and glad to be back here at her school and ready to serve students.