By Goshi Daily and Olivia Davis, contributing writers
“I’m a homeless teacher!”
“I’ll turn my cart into a Roman Chariot!”
“I guess you’ll just have to chase me around the whole class!”
Three very distinctive answers from three very distinctive and unique teachers in response to having to move their classes about on a simple computer cart and nothing else. Since the pandemic started in December of 2019—nearly two years ago now—an awful lot of things throughout the Nantucket High School have changed. The aftermath of Covid notably sparked quite a few curriculum dysfunctions (disrupting the natural flow of classes and confusing assignments) in the educational system but more specifically, and perhaps most of all, disrupted the teachers and staff of NHS. Throughout the school year of 2020/2021, several teachers—English teacher Elizabeth Reinemo, history teacher Leslianne Brannigan, band director Erik Wendelken, and special education specialist Jessica Townsend—have left the Nantucket Public Schools. Whether via retirement, switching schools, or for a year of sabbatical leave, it was felt by all of the staff, and of course, by students.
After the year and a half spent predominantly virtually, coming back to the building has brought on change as well. A new schedule has made three lunch periods instead of the usual two, and classrooms have shifted around various floors. Students have been maneuvering around in search of the correct rearranged classrooms, right alongside their teachers, wheeling their supplies all on one cart. Like a juggling act, teachers move room to room between class periods, pushing a computer cart along with them. While a student may have had a teacher on the ground floor of the building for their first block, it isn’t a surprise to find the very same teacher a floor down two classes later.
This method of room sharing was implemented to deal with the exponential growth of class sizes in recent years. The high school is barely large enough to accommodate all of the students enrolled, and it is hard to say what will happen when the population continues to increase. As for right now, teachers will continue to pack up their things and switch rooms, lightening the heavy push on the building’s capacity.
A few teachers have given an honest response to being asked what the pros and cons of not having a permanent classroom, and just having a computer cart to push around, are. However, all of whom have requested to remain anonymous and will be kept as such. When asked about the current predicament there seemed to be the general consensus of, “There are no pros to being a cart teacher, it is all cons,” the feeling of all the floating teachers summed up well by one.
“I feel like I don’t get enough prep time…it’s spent looking for available space…there’s never any turnover…I feel like I’m almost a second-rate teacher,” said another as they relayed some of the many downsides of being restricted to a cart and not a classroom that they could use at their jurisdiction. Not having to worry about returning everything to the state of the permanent teacher’s way of having things is a luxury teachers who must switch rooms have not gotten this year. The teacher explained their frustrations with barely having any downtime or being able to use their prep time for, well, preparing for the incoming wave of (almost guaranteed hyper) adolescents, and rather having to “aimlessly go from class to class looking for a free classroom”(as another teacher lamented)–and that it adds additional, unnecessary stress to the teachers’ already stress-inducing days.
On the slightly more positive side, some teachers have thought up of decently feasible proposals for a potential solution to the “homeless teacher” issue, as it’s been called by the majority of people, with the most prevalent one being: “We need to build and utilize extensions for the high school, similar to what the middle school did some years ago.”
Another rather common solution suggested would be to relocate the vacant mobile classrooms out by the Mid-Island Rotary and old Fire Station, which have been left unoccupied and without use for quite some time now to a location near the high school. The HDC is currently involved in a disagreement with the Nantucket Select Board over whether or not to move this building, which has overrun it’s previously allotted two year stay at this location. As the teachers explained their reasoning for this possible situation, they think they should take the mobile classrooms and move them onto the school campus and relocate a few classes into them, like they had done about five years ago for the elementary school’s fifth grade. However, there has been some talk here and there of those portable buildings being used for Town Meetings, but this is all in the air, so it seems there truly is no definitive solution at this time.