BETHESDA, Md. — As students across the region start trickling back into schools, they may find their teachers still at home. Montgomery and Fairfax County are hiring $15-an-hour monitors to keep an eye on students in some classrooms, while their teachers log in through the internet.
Some parents have criticized the plan, saying it sounds like glorified babysitting, while others are eager to get their kids back in school, even without teachers there.
Fairfax County Public Schools have already hired 600 classroom monitors, and plans to hire 200 more, Dean Brooks, the recruitment administrator, said. The school district is even staging a virtual job fair on Friday to recruit.
Some monitors started work Jan. 26, camping out in empty and silent classroom while they wait for students to start arriving. Teachers with accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act will dial in from home, teaching students in school buildings while the monitors keep an eye on them.
"The classroom teacher will actually be doing the instruction and the teaching, just from a remote standpoint or virtual standpoint," Brooks said. "But the classroom monitor will be able to assist with taking attendance and the needs that the students have right there."
A spokeswoman for Montgomery County Public Schools said the district is hiring 700 to 800 classroom monitors.
"I think what you're seeing, not just in Montgomery County, but across the nation, our school systems just trying to put their best thinking forward," spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said. "How do we support our students in a world that looks so different?"
In Montgomery, Onijala said, students who had been in one classroom online may be split between three classrooms in person. A teacher might be physically in one and teaching virtually in the other two, with administrators, staffers, or classroom monitors watching the students who are learning remotely.
In both Montgomery and Fairfax, the classroom monitors will be required to have high school degrees or the equivalent.
FCPS mom Christy Hudson has been pushing hard to get her children back in school. She's particularly worried about her 17-year-old son, a high school senior.
"He has not even applied for college and at this point, he should have been accepted to college," she said. "He's completely derailed. He's become very disengaged and depressed, and it's heartbreaking."
She's eager for in-person schooling to restart.
"I do see the social benefits, the emotional benefits of having our children returning to school buildings," Hudson said. "Whether or not there's a teacher in the classroom or not, we'll still take it."