3. The burden on teachers
The debate over whether and how much to reopen schools in the fall has put teachers in the precarious position of choosing between their own safety and the pressures from some parents and local officials, Axios' Marisa Fernandez and I write.
What's happening: With coronavirus cases spiking in many parts of the U.S., districts are weighing the feasibility of keeping classes all virtual, as Los Angeles and San Diego are doing, or conducting a rotation of in-person and remote lessons.
While all back-to-school options have pros and cons, there are specific worries for teachers.
1. Exposure: Despite the overall low health risk to children if they contract COVID-19, scientists still do not conclusively know if schools could become hotspots for more vulnerable populations.
- Nearly 1.5 million teachers have a condition that puts them at increased risk of serious illness from coronavirus, per a Kaiser Family Foundation study.
- A study in Germany found that infections in schools had not led to outbreaks in the community. But an analysis of a surge of cases in Israel found that nearly half the reported cases in June were traced back to illness in schools.
"We as teachers prepare for active shooters, tornadoes, fires and I’m fully prepared to take a bullet or shield a child from falling debris during a tornado. But if I somehow get it and I’m asymptomatic and I get a student sick and something happens to them or one of their family members, that's a guilt I would carry with me forever."— Michelle Albright, a second-grade teacher from northwest Indiana
2. Difficulty of a hybrid approach: Many school districts like New York City are opting to split school between in-person and online to minimize exposure. That's an effective but more burdensome approach for teachers, top teachers union chief Randi Weingarten told Axios' Dan Primack Monday.
3. Child care availability: Teachers with children of their own are concerned about how to care for them when they are teaching.
4. Concerns of other school staff: Bus drivers, custodians, administrative staff, cafeteria workers and school nurses may come in contact with more children throughout the day because they are less likely than teachers to be confined to a single classroom.
What to watch: School districts ought to be finding other roles for teachers who are not comfortable returning to the classroom, such as reassigning them to virtual-only roles, said John Bailey, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former domestic policy adviser during the George W. Bush administration.
The bottom line: Due to the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, teachers are worried about the uncertainties and, in some cases, lack of clear planning should conditions worsen. That may drive some to quit teaching altogether.
- "You’ve got 25% of teachers who may be in either a high-risk situation because of pre-existing conditions or because of age, and a lot of them, if they can, they may just check out and say 'nobody’s taking care of me. I can’t go back,'" Weingarten said.