LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KWNA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Education Association published a press release, Tuesday, Jan. 25 expressing concerns over students’ learning loss due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

The association says Arkansas students are suffering from emotional distress, as well as learning loss and undernourishment, according to a recent survey conducted by the Arkansas Education Association.

The survey respondents also believe a brief shift to virtual learning would be the best option to limit education disruptions and keep students and teachers safe.

We have learned the hard way it is more difficult than ever to be an educator. With no option to pivot to virtual, and AMI days running out, we wanted to get a broader perspective of what our educators are experiencing and what insight they could provide into the ever-growing need for mitigating the effects of the virus on students and educators.

AEA President Carol Fleming

According to the release, 94.07% of teacher survey respondents say their students have suffered some level of emotional distress due to the pandemic, while 72.44% report some level of undernourishment in their students and 96.69% have observed academic losses.

AEA believes educators are feeling ignored, saying most of them are not being asked what they think. The release notes 72.08% of survey respondents disagreed with the statement, “my district is listening to educator input as it relates to COVID-19.”

63.10% disagreed with “my district is treating me in a way that makes me feel respected and valued,” with only 46% of respondents feeling comfortable reporting health and safety violations.

The association also pointed out that schools do not get an unlimited number of AMI days (alternative methods of instruction) and many have used their 10 allotted days. Once that happens, school is extended into summer break.

“Educators know how important it is to remain flexible in responding to unprecedented and rapidly changing circumstances – we have shown up every day the past two years, adapting and innovating the ways we teach and interact with our students,” Fleming said. “But right now, our districts don’t have the flexibility they need.”

Of four hypothetical options sent for educators to choose what they feel schools should be doing to keep people safe, 50.38% agreed that schools should move to virtual instruction until positivity rates begin to decline.

Although, 29.50% want to remain in-person, but with mitigations strategies such as mask mandates. The release also said 9.39% would like to return to a hybrid model of online and in-person learning, and 10.73% would like virtual options and mask mandates eliminated with schools open.