Providence teachers protest rollout of VLA

Teachers say class sizes are too large to adequately serve their students.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Just two days into the school year, Providence teachers are calling the rollout of the virtual learning academy “unacceptable” and “unprofessional.”

More than one hundred Providence teachers protested outside the RIDE offices Tuesday to say the class sizes for the virtual learning academy are too large and the end result punishes students who’ve opted out of in person learning.

“What we’re trying to do is call attention to the fact that there was little to no planning for
virtual learning,” said Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro.

Teachers say the issues with the virtual learning academy (VLA) go well beyond technical glitches that come with teaching on-line.

“A lot of students that weren’t supposed to come into the school didn’t understand what was going on, so they had to send them back,” said Roger Williams Middle School Teacher Antonia Lara Sanchez

“Rosters are overloaded and they weren’t distributed until very late,” said VP of the Providence Teachers Union Jeremy Sencer.

Calabro says some elementary teachers have more than 50 students in the VLA and some high school teachers have more than 200.

“The class sizes are just simply too large for the teachers to have any kind of connection with students,” said Sencer.

Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green responded to the issues posed to her at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

She said there definitely shouldn’t be anyone with over 200 students, but teachers with more than 50 kids should be teaching them in two separate groups, not all at once.

“So there’s not 52 kids, that’s not what’s happening,” said Infante-Green. “But I’m going to look at the schedules. I’m going to dig into that.”

But teachers say they are not trained to teach virtually, so being thrown into the deep end with so many students is overwhelming.

“Checking to see whether the students online understand and the students in front of you understand,” described Calabro. “Stop pretending like everything is perfect. Let’s be realistic.”

Teachers also said that teaching in this way creates inequity for students, especially multi-lingual learners which make up most of the district.

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