Educators worry about health when school returns

Oklahoma school employees are concerned about their own health when school starts back in the fall and they believe classroom and normal school activities cannot continue as they always have.

Those beliefs were expressed in an Oklahoma Education Association survey of its members June 1-9. The survey asked for opinions on health and safety issues as well as what would be the best way to start school in the fall during the pandemic.

The survey was completed by 2,895 public school employees representing all levels of experience and jobs, from elementary to high school teachers, support employees, counselors and administrators.

“Our members are concerned for the health of their students as well as themselves,” said Alicia Priest, OEA president. “They want to be part of the planning on how school starts back in the fall, but sadly a large majority of our members say they haven’t been part of the conversation with their school districts.”

Here are some highlights of the survey:

On school administration…

  • 82% of the respondents are confident that their local administration will provide resources to keep them safe – 37% are very confident.
  • Similarly, they trust in their local school board: 35% very confident, 46% somewhat confident
  • However, 63% say school district leaders are not including teachers and support professionals in their health and safety planning for Fall 2020.

The safety of returning to school in the fall…

  • 86% say social distancing is not possible in their jobs
  • 81% are concerned about their health working in a school environment (34% are very concerned)
  • 31% believe they are at high-risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Overall, they believe it is a good idea for schools to provide masks for employees (75%), students (63%) and visitors (81%).
  • They are less excited about requiring employees (48%) and students (40%) to wear masks, but they definitely believe visitors should be required to wear masks (76%).

Going back to school this fall…

  • There was no clear, majority opinion on the best way to hold school this fall. 31% chose A-B Days (alternating half of the students coming one day and the other half the next day, with distance learning for students not at school). 28% chose a regular calendar while 17% chose distance (virtual) learning as the best idea.
  • 83% say their districts do not have enough substitutes and believe the pandemic will make it even hard to find subs.
  • They believe all school activities should resume only “with precautions” – Athletics, 69%; Assemblies, 42% (40% say cancel them altogether); and class rotations, 58%.
  • 54% are worried the district will lay off workers.
  • Respondents say access to technology (58%) and the Internet (54%) are both major problems for students and their families at home.
  • 51% say food security is a major problem for their students.

Click here to read the complete results from the survey.