To: Putnam Science Academy Administration

PSA teachers should have the option to teach entirely online.

PSA teachers should have the option to teach entirely online.

Allow teachers at Putnam Science Academy the right to choose to teach exclusively online during the COVID 19 pandemic if they are uncomfortable teaching in-person classes.

Why is this important?

Putnam Science Academy has publicly and consistently stated that the safety of its students and staff is its highest priority. Doubtless, the risk of transmission of COVID 19 is greatly increased by inviting students back into the classroom. It is therefore prudent to ask if anything is gained by this decision. Due to the unique challenges of instructing a student body which is divided between those present on campus and those attending classes remotely, it is unfortunately concluded that the answer is often, “No.” Regrettably, many classes simply do not benefit from the addition of in-person meetings.

Since teachers are responsible for teaching online students in tandem with students in the classroom, they must often resort to using remote-learning techniques with all students simultaneously, regardless of their physical presence or absence in the classroom. Several teachers have found it necessary to conduct most or all of their classes through Zoom, even with the students present in the classroom. The result is instruction equivalent to online learning, with the only substantive difference being the greatly increased risk of the transmission of COVID 19.

Let us be clear: this increased risk is not negligible. Within the very first days of in-person learning, when classroom policies were fresh in everybody's mind and enthusiasm was presumably at its zenith, students repeatedly removed their masks or failed to wear them correctly, ignored social distancing mandates, and congregated at choke points and foyers. The added stress this causes the teachers responsible for student safety (and, indeed, for their own safety) only exacerbates the myriad difficulties of managing a split online/in-person classroom.

Having concluded that student instruction is often identical to that which they would receive online, and that student presence in the classroom increases the risk to both students and staff, it must be asked: should in-person classes be a mandatory policy? No. Not when there is a perfectly feasible alternative available.

Rather than opting to strictly enforce a policy which offers high risk often without reward, teachers should be empowered to choose for themselves whether or not in-person classes are practical or profitable. If a teacher feels they or their students are experiencing an unnecessary risk, they should be given the option to teach online classes. These classes can follow the agreed-upon schedule, and could in every respect adhere to the guidelines for class times presented in the student handbook. This would not interfere with those classes or teachers who feel that in-person instruction is indispensable, and any teacher who wished to continue in-person or mixed in-person/online teaching would be able to do so.

Desiring to teach online does not indicate a lack of enthusiasm for teaching, a lack of devotion to student progress, or a contrarian attitude towards the administration. It is evidence only that the teachers genuinely believe that they can best serve the students, and best keep them safe, by providing online instruction.