Alabama teachers concerned about returning to school during pandemic

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — This time next month, students and teachers across Alabama will be getting ready to return to the classroom. Right now, plans are being finalized to return to school.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, safety concerns remain at the forefront for many teachers and faculty, many of whom would like to see more done to protect them and their students from the virus.

“We got many, many big and important decisions to make in the coming weeks, like trying to reopening our schools,” Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday. ​

How to reopen schools is one of the most pressing decisions facing political leaders, but its even more alarming for teachers around the state.

“It’s a big concern statewide,” said Richard Franklin, president of the Birmingham Federation of Teachers.​

Franklin said he was extremely frustrated when State Superintendent Eric Mackey revealed the Alabama roadmap to reopening schools.​ Franklin said it was vague, left everything up to local school systems, and offered no extra resources to achieve the safe reopening.

“The educators, they been communicating with the kids, it’s the people who make the decisions that are so far removed from kids,” he said.​

That’s why the Birmingham Federation of Teachers decided to conduct a survey and received an overwhelming response from 1,750 school employees.​ Here are the results:

  • 60% say that their district’s leadership team is not including educators in their conversations about district led virtual education and the upcoming 20-21 school year. ​
  • 72% do not feel safe at all returning to their buildings ​
  • 59% said that mandatory masks, social distancing, daily classroom sanitizing, frequent hand wash breaks, and smaller class sizes would not alleviate their fears enough to feel safe returning to work.
  • When given a choice between face to face, blended (face to face and district led virtual) or complete virtual learning, 54% said complete district led virtual learning, 9% said face to face.
  • 66% of the respondents felt prepared, or somewhat prepared, for district led virtual learning
  • 96% are worried, or somewhat worried, about the impact of the coronavirus on their own health.​

Birmingham school board member Terri Michal has also weighed in.​

“I have a lot of concerns,” Michal said. “I personally want to go virtual. I’m just going to be honest with you, I want us to go back virtually.” ​

On Wednesday, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force and Ivey met. Sources said a variety of topics were discussed and questions were asked including reopening schools safely.​ All of this while some students are expected to be back in the classrooms in the upcoming weeks.


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