6,000+ Arkansas educators weigh in on COVID-19 concerns

KNWA

"Educators and students want and need to be together when it is safe," Fayetteville Public Schools Teacher Michelle Wolchok said.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — More than 6,000 Arkansas educators weighed in on their COVID-19 concerns ahead of school reopening.

Over 6,000 educators across the state, like Michelle Wolchok with Fayetteville Public Schools, took a survey conducted by the Arkansas Education Association.

“I was not in the least surprised to see the high percentages in the number of teachers who are concerned with the safety of their students, their students’ families, their own lives, and their own families,” Wolchok said.

We are very concerned.

MICHELLE WOLCHOK, FAYETTEVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS TEACHER

The results showed 90% of respondents are concerned about student health issues related to teaching and learning in schools, and 98% believe it will be very or somewhat difficult to implement social distancing or other safety measures in school buildings. 

In addition, more than 40% of respondents said they are considering retiring early or leaving the profession as a result of the pandemic.

Social distancing is critical, PPE is going to be critical…how are we going to make sure that everyone’s comfortable with that and has the space to be able to do that?

MICHELLE WOLCHOK, FAYETTEVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS TEACHER

Wolchok said she knows the importance of in-person instruction, but she said that can only happen if and when there’s a way to ensure schools are safe.

“Educators and students want and need to be together when it is safe,” she said. “I think as a community we all need to come together and wear our masks and do everything we can to get this community spread down, or there just can’t be in-person classes on August 24.”

Below is the full survey release from the Arkansas Education Association:

Arkansas educators want to see the safe return to in-person learning in schools across our state; however, they remain concerned about the risk to their students and colleagues.  When we return to classroom learning, we need to do it in a sustainable way that ensures school buildings stay safe and stay open.  

survey conducted by AEA over the last weekend, confirmed Arkansas educators are extremely concerned about the safety of returning to in-person learning in the fall. More than six thousand teachers and education support professionals responded to the survey, representing all 75 counties in the state. 

The results show 90% of respondents are concerned about student health issues related to teaching and learning in schools, and 98% believe it will be very or somewhat difficult to implement social distancing or other safety measures in school buildings. In addition, more than 40% of respondents said they are considering retiring early or leaving the profession as a result of the pandemic. 

While acknowledging the disruption and learning loss caused by the pandemic, and the importance of in-person instruction, most respondents believe schools should reopen only after public health experts determine it’s safe to return. Educator input and adequate planning and equipment are also necessary to protect school employees, students, and visitors from COVID-19. 

As districts discuss plans for the 2020-2021 school year it is essential that we make decisions based on science and safety. Schools must not become places that increase that spread or endanger the lives of students, staff, or of our surrounding community. Districts will need flexibility and should be including educators in discussions aimed at providing the best possible education for our students as we confront the challenges posed by COVID-19. 

“The message from the vast majority of responding Arkansas educators is clear: we must assure the health and safety of students and educators before our schools are ready to reopen,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. “We need supplies, support, and clearly communicated safety protocols before our students, teachers, and education support staff can consider returning to in-person learning. Arkansas’s educators know their students, parents, and communities best, and they want to be a part of decision-making as we develop a safe, sustainable path forward.” 

AEA has formed a “Return to Learn” committee made up of educators across the state. They are currently analyzing the results of the survey and health guidance and will create a list of expectations that must be met before students and educators can return to the classroom. 

ARKANSAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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