What Teachers Want To Reopen Schools

From Connecticut Education Association

While Connecticut educators want schools to reopen, they want to reopen safely.

— They strongly oppose reopening at full capacity where it would undermine necessary safety precautions required to keep students and educators safe.

— They support the necessary state funding to safely implement the critical protocols.

— They want schools to have the options of a safe hybrid model, with a mixture of in-school and distance learning, or full-time remote learning depending on COVID infection rates.

Nearly 16,000 Connecticut educators responded to CEA’s statewide poll, conducted July 13-20, by GBAO in Washington, D.C. The educators’ responses underscore the need to strengthen the state’s plan with CEA’s Safe Learning Plan, released last week, which provides detailed guidelines for safety, equity, and funding to ensure a safe way forward. The plan calls for delayed openings, staggered schedules, hybrid learning, and guaranteed funding to ensure healthy and safe schools for all.

The survey found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of educators oppose the state plan to fully reopen schools without the necessary protections for students and educators. Based on current trends, 16% of teachers said they would prefer to return to school in the fall, 39% support a hybrid approach, which includes a combination of in-school and distance learning, and nearly half (46%) of educators favor continued distance learning.

“We need to listen to the concerns of our educators, parents, community members, and health experts during a life-threatening pandemic,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “We can’t expect to reopen our schools in a usual fashion, especially as new evidence demonstrates that school-age children ten years and older spread the virus as readily as adults.”

Leake continued, “We have heard from thousands of our members–nearly 16,000 of whom completed the survey–a strong indication of the importance of this issue. The survey clearly shows that educators overwhelmingly support CEA’s Safe Learning Plan to ensure our students, educators, and their families are given the greatest measures of safety and security before they return to school.”

Safety is the primary concern for teachers, who in the survey overwhelmingly agreed with the following statements:

1. Requiring students and educators to follow CDC recommendations about regularly washing hands (99%) and make hand sanitizer available throughout buildings (99%)

2. Limiting groupings of students and educators in a way that reflect schools’ ability to physically distance six feet apart, including in classrooms, gyms, and school buses (97%)

3. Providing and requiring masks for educators and students (96%) and prohibiting visitor access (96%)

4. COVID-19 testing protocols at each school (95%)

5. Hiring bus monitors to help enforce social distancing and mask wearing on school buses (91%)

The vast of majority of teachers, 90%, support masks for both students and educators, but that same number say it will be difficult (and 54% say “very difficult”) for students to keep masks on all day. An even larger number, 96%, say it will be difficult to implement social distancing and other health practices throughout the day.

“We know the importance of following safety protocols, but we also know that our students, especially our youngest learners, are going to have extreme difficulties keeping their masks on, keeping their hands to themselves, and staying away from their friends and teachers,” added Leake.

Elementary, middle and high school teachers all expressed similar concerns about their students’ ability to follow safety protocols.

— Elementary school teachers: 96% say keeping masks on students will be difficult, and almost all, 98%, say it will be difficult for children to follow social distancing guidelines.

— Middle school teachers: 88% say keeping masks on students will be difficult, and 96% say social distancing will be difficult.

— High school teachers: 81% say keeping masks on students will be difficult, and 94% say social distancing will a problem.

— Special education teachers: 94% say it will be difficult keeping masks on students, and 97% say social distancing will be difficult.

Other survey highlights include

— More than two-thirds (68%) say their districts do not have the funding needed to implement safety protocols, while nearly a quarter are unsure.

— 87% of educators say buses should be run at half capacity or less.

— 29% of educators say they have considered leaving public education because of the pandemic.

— 62% say there is not adequate airflow and ventilation in their schools.

— 100% of teachers say it is important for teachers to be part of school reopening plans.

Leake said, “Teachers will continue speaking up and speaking out to protect their students and themselves. On Thursday, they will hold car caravans in Hartford and a number of cities and towns across the state to urge the governor and State Department of Education to do what is right for our school communities and all the residents in the state of Connecticut and keep everyone safe.”

Leake concluded, “Our dedicated educators are looking forward to starting a new school year safely, and we urge the state to provide the funding and flexibility for schools to implement hybrid plans that will allow robust teaching and learning and keep everyone safe.”

View the survey results at CEA.org.


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