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Teachers handle work in, out of building with pandemic in mind

English teacher Kate Mannelly’s in-school teaching setup (photo courtesy of Mannelly)

Teachers wave and greet each other in the otherwise empty hallways, careful to keep their masks up and not linger as they move in and out of the building. Meanwhile, others lead Zoom classes from converted workstations at home.

In the current distance learning system that Newton Public Schools (NPS) has put in place, most teachers, aside from the special education department, have the ability to opt-in to teaching from the school building.

Superintendent David Fleishman said that the opt-in plan was “something that I made in collaboration with others, but ultimately that was my decision.” He added that the district realized that some other schools were mandating teachers to be in the building, but that NPS had wanted to make a plan that was more flexible.

“Our department chairs let us know which rooms were still available after they figured out the special education schedule and room blocks,” said English teacher Kate Mannelly.

Mannelly added that, “Most people are not in the building. I think that there are a few that find it easier to work in the building.” She added that lots of teachers have health concerns about being in the building, so “most people have opted to work from home.”

French teacher Alieu Jobe chose to teach his classes from home. “If the question of safety is answered, I think one wouldn’t have any issue about coming into the building to perform their duties that they love doing and they want to be doing,” Jobe added.

According to math and art special education teacher Radka Grein, the near emptiness of the building is nice for the special education department, as they were able to space out their students between more classrooms for less risk of the virus spreading.

The extra room “makes us feel like we have a lot of space, so that makes us feel better about the health and safety,” said Grein. “I personally work with students with higher special needs, and they need lots of help and support, so we worry about our health. Not all of our students are able to follow exactly the health and safety guidelines, so we have to help them.”

Some teachers have begun to bring their classes into the school building on reverse field trips. According to Grein, teachers in the special education departments “have to be careful with where the other students are and the other teachers, so we don’t share the same space,” but they have not encountered any issues yet. 

Though some see working in the building as a necessity and take up the opportunity for a variety of reasons, others have some concerns.

Jobe explained that he did not think it was a question of being comfortable, but rather one of being safe with the danger of COVID-19 in mind. “The issue is what’s behind why we’re all not in the building,” he said.

Alternatively, some teachers view being in the building as a core tether to having a pleasant year. Mannelly said she prefers to work in the building to have more space and a sense of normalcy “in a year that’s not very normal.” She added, “It’s nice to see some friends and colleagues throughout the day. Even if it’s just in passing, in the hallway, with masks on, it’s still refreshing, and it’s nice to separate my home life and my work life.” 

It’s unclear if this plan will change as the year progresses, but for now, teachers will continue to either teach from makeshift desks and workstations at home or take Zoom classes from a familiar but hollow school building as the year progresses.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Zalis
Jacob Zalis, News managing editor
Jacob Zalis is currently a senior at Newton North High School. Outside of school he runs track and field and cross country. In his free time he likes reading and watching movies. His favorite books are The Martian by Andy Weir and the entirety of the Captain Underpants anthology by Dav Pilkey. His favorite movies are 1917 and Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. In his free time Jacob enjoys biking, hanging out with friends, and listening to music (sometimes all at the same time). Some of his favorite artists include bbno$ and Bruno Mars. His favorite subjects are English and chemistry. He is looking forward to meeting everyone in the coming volume and having a great time writing for The Newtonite!
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