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Tampa Bay teachers tell all: What it's like to be back

From wearing a mask all day and changing protocols, teachers across Tampa Bay opened up about their first few weeks back.

By now, just about all Tampa Bay teachers are back in front of their students. The last few weeks have been different for every single one of them.

You're either stuck behind a screen or a mask.

Those teaching in front of their actual students are adapting to added physical space and new rotations. For example, in Pinellas County, Miranda France, a second-year teacher moved between two classrooms so her fifth-graders never have to leave their desks and share space with others. 

"That interaction being together, you learn so much more so I wanted to be back and I wanted to see everyone," said France, who also said she feels safe thanks to mask-wearing and COVID protocols.

Other Pinellas County teachers didn't want to divulge their identities for fear of losing their jobs but they explained that simultaneous teaching, teaching to live students and those online, is a disaster.

Erika Franz, a Sarasota teacher echoed the same sentiment from her colleagues. 

"I have watched many teachers this week in tears…they're teaching kids in school and they're teaching kids on the computer and it's not working right now," explained Franz, who teaches kindergarten through second-grade students with special needs. Franz is also teaching a few remotely but won't be doing both at the same time. 

She wanted to be back in the classroom with her kids.

"I just think people need to take a deep breath and watch what's happening and have confidence the people in the schools are taking care of the kids," added Franz.

Shawanda Bonner Morgan, a middle and high school teacher in Polk County is grateful to be teaching from home. Over the summer she visited a campus to pick up a paycheck and saw many people not following safety guidelines.

"I see them talking, not wearing them(masks) correctly. I see kids walking around, not wearing them correctly. Football team, they're not wearing masks or being distant. I promise you, I felt so much relief not having to be in such an environment," said Bonner Morgan who was worried about bringing the virus home to her parents.

In Hillsborough County, Wendy Carey teaches very young students with special needs, and she choose to get back in the classroom. Although she's happy to be back, Carey admits the first week was challenging.

She said, "If I could just be honest, the very first day with a mask on for seven hours was exhausting."

Angie Snow, a media specialist in Hillsborough didn't have a choice. Because the media center has been limited this year, she's helping with arrival and dismissal. She doesn't feel like the building is safe.

Snow said, "I think teachers emotionally are saying, how am I going to keep all these kids safe because they don't want it to happen in their classroom?"

She said the COVID dashboard the district launched actually makes teachers feel more anxious because they don't know exactly who tested positive adding, "It’s almost impossible to do that much contact tracing."

All Tampa Bay school districts had physical campuses open to students as of Aug. 31.

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