Polk County schools delay in-person start date amid teachers' push to start strictly online

School board members with Polk County Schools voted to delay the start of the school year at Tuesday night's meeting despite teachers protesting outside the meeting and urging the district to begin the school year strictly online.

Polk County Schools is set to start on August 24 instead of their initial start date of August 10, but some teachers aren't on board. Tuesday night, about 100 teachers protested outside the meeting in a drive-thru protest.

"We feel it's unsafe to open our brick and mortar schools right now," Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum said.

Rows of cars lined the street Tuesday night for a drive-thru protest outside the Polk County Schools Board Meeting. Teachers could be seen in their cars with posters on their windows hoping to change minds.

"They're expecting a lot from us. We already have to not only continue with curriculum and monitor the general behavior of the class but then to expect us to be doing deep cleanings on top of all this. You know we didn't sign up for this," teacher Amanda Maggs said.

Tuesday, the board voted to delay the first day of school till August 24.

"We will continue to monitor the situation with health officials and, if the spread of the virus remains high, we can further delay the physical reopening of our brick-and-mortar schools if necessary,” Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said.

Under the current plan students have 3 options: return to the classroom; log-in to class online and follow a schedule, or work at their own pace through the district's e-learning program. Still, teachers would need to return to the classroom.

"We still would have to be in the building with poor circulation of air. Bad ventilation. Who knows who is at risk? Who knows who has brought it in?" teacher Marcus Maggs said.

Marcus Maggs and his wife Amanda are both high school teachers in the district. They worry about the logistical challenges bound to impact the learning process.

"It's physically impossible for a teacher to keep up with all the constant sanitation that would have to be happening. It's fine to clean at the beginning and the end of the day, but no one thinks about the in-between times. For high schools, we know that we can't clean in between every single class period. It's just not going to happen," Amanda Maggs said.

Starting Tuesday, surveys went out to parents with the 3 options. The district will have a few weeks to sift through the data. Depending on the feedback they receive, they could move to start strictly online, which is what teachers are asking, but for now school will begin on August 24.

LINK: To find out more about the three learning options and complete the online registration, visit the Polk Schools website.