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Pinellas County School Board discusses 'simultaneous' teaching and relief for educators

Two school board members brought up frustrations they're experiencing first-hand with their own children.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — One month back at school and the "simultaneous teaching" model continues to be a point of tension in Pinellas County.

That's when educators are teaching both in the classroom and students online at the same time.

Last week, teachers' union representatives and district administrators ended a two-hour meeting without a solution to address concerns raised about simultaneous teaching as both sides appeared they couldn’t even agree on the scope of the issue.

At a school board meeting Tuesday, board members weighed in.

Eileen Long said she was "blown away" by what teachers have to do and thought wording used in a district e-mail about whether teachers thought they were "capable" was offensive to educators.

Long spoke from her first-hand experience as a parent commenting that her son spends ten hours on the computer a day and she finds the online programs confusing.

Lisa Cane, another board member with a child in the school system echoed frustrations.

District leaders responded to the board members by explaining the e-mail they sent to teachers was intended to gauge their honest feelings on their current workload, not belittle their capabilities. 

William Corbett, a deputy superintendent with the district said they were taking steps to assist those teachers who are overwhelmed. He said they've identified 60-70 teachers already who were struggling and got them more resources, devices or training. He's communicating with principals to help even more teachers.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego asked board members for the names of teachers who need help and recommended the district not talk in generalities since the needs and age limitations of students vary so vastly.

Four people spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting -- two about loosening the district's face mask requirement and two about doing away with simultaneous teaching.

Amanda Loeffler has three children in Pinellas County Schools, one in elementary school and two in middle school. On Tuesday, she spoke on behalf of another parent who couldn't be there.

Loeffler started an online petition urging the district to do away with simultaneous instruction and have teachers committed to one or the other.

RELATED: Parents urging district to do away with 'simultaneous teaching' model

At one time the district was considering teacher surveys to better understand the challenges, but Tuesday a district spokesperson said, "At this time, we are not doing surveys. We did focus groups and asked principals to see which teachers need help and identify what kind of help."

The simultaneous teaching model is being debated statewide and was recently brought up in a news conference held by the largest teachers' union in the state.

"If you’re doing something with kids in the classroom, it’s not always transferable to what you’re doing with kids on the computer," said Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association.

RELATED: Teachers' union demands money and transparency from Florida governor

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