Some Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers concerned with returning to classrooms, district responds

Some Gwinnett County Public School teachers say they feel like their hands are tied.

"Why are we being provided with the zero options," an elementary school teacher asked.

In an internal memo sent to employees Thursday night to staff, it reads 'teleworking or working remotely is not an available alternative".

"I think it's another way that we're being devalued of the work that we have been putting in to support students and implies that we're not doing our jobs from home. Even with our kids here," the teacher described.

School administrators told FOX 5 teachers are expected to return to the classroom on May 18.

They said if staff are not able to report due to COVID-19 related conditions or because their child's school or daycare is closed, they can apply for leave time under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Under that, several teachers who asked that we not identify them said they'd only get two-thirds of their salary.

"If we were able to use our sick or personal time, obviously we'd be able to be paid our full salary," one teacher mentioned.

Another teacher sent us a statement questioning why they are still required to be in the classroom, even though they will continue teaching students digitally.

"All this can be done from home but we all need to be in the building," the teacher told us.

School administrators said they are practicing strict social distancing and sanitation procedures to keep everyone safe.

They are also minimizing the number of people in a building at any given time.

They told us teachers must return so they can close out the remainder of the academic year.

Administrators are already preparing for Fall.

They’re considering three options: returning to a classroom setting on August 5th, starting the school with digital learning on that same date, or using an alternate calendar that calls for the start of school after labor day.

As for one elementary school teacher, she told her she has no choice but to stay home because her children's school and daycare are closed.

Before teachers are phased in, director-level employees at the Instructional Support Center, along with their clerical support staff, will return to the Old Peachtree Road building on May 6. The following Monday, May 11, all remaining ISC staff and school-based employees, except for teachers, will head back to their respective buildings.

Numerous FOX 5 viewers in those categories reached out with concerns. One staff member argued, "It makes zero sense to disallow teleworking, especially for those of us who don't need to be physically present." That ISC employee added there will be "hundreds of workers in cubicles" with reportedly little room for social distancing.

One employee, required to return to school on May 11, echoed those sentiments.

"We are still conducting digital learning lessons, so it does not make sense to ask support personnel to conduct these lessons in the schools when these lessons can easily be continued at home," the staff member wrote to FOX 5's Emilie Ikeda. These employees asked to remain anonymous.

School officials said there are some teachers looking forward to returning.

They said they've already slowly started bringing people back into the schools and it has been a smooth process.