The resignation of Chemistry and Physics teacher Valerie Jaehrling will be considered by the Atlantic Board of Education on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Jaehrling said she has tendered her resignation due to safety concerns during COVID-19.
Early in the summer, Jaehrling contacted the administration of AHS and told them what she thought would be safe and reasonable working conditions during the pandemic. She asked questions about the school’s Return-to-Learn plan and compared their answers to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization websites. When the school board chose not to mandate masks, Jaehrling submitted her resignation.
“I really, really tried to focus on not what I feel safe with, but what research is supporting,” Jaehrling said. Many factors were taken into consideration for her final decision. “I said we need to have the chance to wear masks and enforce it, we need reliable social distancing, and we need transparent metrics on community spread.”
Jaehrling said she held out as long as she could to make the decision because she wanted to be able to teach safely if possible. “I waited until I was absolutely certain that the school board was not going to allow us to have a mask rule in our classroom, which was Monday [August 17] morning.”
After this Jaehrling asked for a leave of absence and stated that if that was not granted, this would be her formal resignation. “I’m not trying to live in fear,” Jaehrling said. “I’m trying to live based on scientifically supported metrics and precautions. Which as a science teacher, seems like something I should do.”
Jaehrling said that she will miss teaching AP Chem and Physics the most. “Those are the most fun to teach. The students are very motivated and bright.” As for her future plans, she hopes to sub in a school that has “a more reasonable approach to containing outbreaks.”
Jaehrling’s piece of advice to students is to “prove (her) wrong and stay safe.”
“Respect social distancing. Everybody wear a mask in the building. Make it seem like I was Chicken Little. Just do everything you can to be as safe as possible.”
At this time, the plan for science classes is still up in the air. Principal Heather McKay said it could be a shared teacher from another district or juniors may have to take Chemistry their senior year. Physics might have the option to drop later in the year, depending on how things play out. “The students are at the heart of my efforts,” McKay said.
Junior Wyatt Redinbaugh is taking Chemistry, which at this time is being taught through Accelus, an online learning program. “I don’t like it because I can’t ask questions,” said Redinbaugh. “If I don’t understand, it’s pretty much just tough luck.”
“It’s a disadvantage,” said junior Jaci Smith. “We really aren’t learning anything. You can just keep guessing until it’s right. Most people just skip to the videos and guess on the questions.”
Other students find the online program works well for them. Junior Jeanna Kramer said, “I like it because it’s online and we don’t have a teacher. It makes it easier for me to learn. I can work at my own pace and in my own time.”
Video of Valerie Jaehrling (yellow sweater) works with AP Chemistry students, November 2019.