ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As students returned to Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School Monday, at least one of their former teachers would not be coming back.
Jessica Smith, with five years of teaching under her belt, decided to put in her resignation.
“With figuring out a new technological platform, while not being able to circulate around the room checking on the kids in class, because we are supposed to be trying to maintain our distance, and also, now that I am streaming to someone, I need to be visible to them on camera too, right?" Smith said.
"So, there was the stress of figuring all that out and just the fact of what would be constant paranoia of being exposed to potentially like 80 to 100 kids a day, it wouldn’t be a satisfying life to live for me personally. So I made the difficult decision to resign a little over a week ago now," said Smith.
“I am sure that wasn’t easy," said Spectrum Bay News Nine Anchor Erin Murray in an interview.
“No definitely not," replied Smith. "I had had my kids since they had came in in sixth grade, and was going to exit with them when they graduated eighth grade so, not being able to say goodbye to them was probably the hardest part."
Smith is far from the only teacher not returning because of Covid-19 and the other struggles that come with teaching this year. Pinellas County Public Schools shared the numbers about staff not returning this 2020-2021 school year.
As of August 17, 90 teachers retired through the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program), with 58 other retirements, and 252 people resigned.
DROP is a program where state employees choose to enter years earlier and set their retirement date. Usually that date is five years out, but many came due this year said the school district.
It is also important to note in the 2019-2020 school year, 245 people retired which is only seven fewer than this year.
Smith does have another job to fall back on as a mortgage loan officer. Plus, she is working on launching a new business in the teaching field. She is starting an education enrichment program, which would work with individual families and much smaller groups of kids in the first phases.
“One of my friends just put her resignation in last week and she is in Polk County," said Smith. "So we are looking at maybe doing this together and starting a Polk Chapter and a Pinellas Chapter.”
Another option for teachers in Pinellas County Public Schools is taking a leave of absence. For employees who request to work remotely and there is no position to work remotely, they may request and be granted a leave for the 2020-2021 school year. This would be an unpaid year and the employee's position at the school would not be held.
However, the employee would retain a position in the district for the 2021-2022 school year.