The McFarland School District is facing scrutiny this week after a high school teacher built a makeshift ‘fort’ around his desk as a COVID-19 precaution.
Photos surfaced late Sunday afternoon of the teacher’s desk surrounded by wooden planks and see-through tarp. The contraption included a hinged door to go in and out, as well as a vent area around a window near the desk.
The incident came just one week after the high school opened back up for in-person instruction on Feb. 22, following nearly a year of learning virtually from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Parents of students in the class voiced several complaints about the teacher’s construction, claiming the teacher sat in the makeshift fort to teach the students in his classroom on his computer via Zoom instead of leading in-person instruction out in the open.
In response to the push-back from district parents, McFarland Superintendent Andrew Briddell released a statement in which he indicated that the teacher felt compelled to construct the enclosure due to anxiety from losing a family member to COVID-19.
“Last week, during the opening days of school-wide in-person instruction at McFarland High School, we received concerns about a temporary enclosure that a teacher was using at their teaching station on a short-term basis as a protective measure against COVID-19,” Briddell said. “The teacher is very uncomfortable with in-person learning due to the loss of a close family member to COVID-19 and the district is working to support both the teacher and our students to be as comfortable as possible with in-person learning.”
Briddell confirmed that the teacher’s classes have now been moved to the school’s Student Learning Center to provide a more wide-open space for instruction, and the makeshift enclosure has been taken down.
While some parents complained about the incident, others have started a movement of support by collecting cards and kind messages to be sent to the teacher.
Controversy over the reopening of district schools has been widespread over the last few months, with some residents strongly pushing for a full reopening and others asking the district to give teachers a choice in whether or not they return to in-person teaching, though Briddell said the district is doing everything in its power to support its teachers.
“McFarland School District is working hard to provide the best learning environment we can for our students while also supporting our staff during these most challenging times, and especially during our recent transition to in-person learning,” said Briddell.