LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — 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.
A 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 to for the 2020-2021 school year it is essential that we make decisions based in 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 in 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.