OHIO | Survey of teachers shows widespread concern with physical reopening of schools

The Ohio Federation of Teachers

The Ohio Federation of Teachers recently released the initial results of a survey of members who work in K-12 education. The survey asked about members’ concerns about in-person and remote learning for the beginning of 2020, as well as asking about their preference for how the school year should begin. 

The top-line question of the survey asked what kind of reopening plan members would be most comfortable with for their school district. Only 8.3% of respondents indicated they would be most comfortable with a full return to school, five days per week for all students. Two-thirds of all respondents (66.2%) indicated that they would be most comfortable with full-time distance learning for all students, either until cases decline significantly or for the full fall semester. The remaining 25.5% opted for a partial return to school with a blended learning environment of in-person and remote instruction. 

While supporters of a full return to in-person education have focused on the low chance of death for students who may contract COVID-19, the leading concern among educators and school support staff was the role that schools may play in increasing community spread of the disease.

See the survey results here.

“Our members across the state want nothing more than to get back into the classrooms and school buildings with our students, but the overwhelming majority are not confident that their school districts can reopen safely,” said OFT President Melissa Cropper. “We know that what happens in our schools does not stay in our schools, and that a premature and unsafe reopening can have drastic effects on the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.” 

When asked about specific logistic challenges, only 18.2% of respondents felt confident that their schools will be able to reduce class sizes to allow for proper physical distancing. Even fewer respondents, 9.4% and 17%, felt confident that their schools will be able to maintain distancing during bus rides and lunch periods, respectively. 

“President Trump and Secretary of Education DeVos have called for a full-time return to in-person learning in districts across the country,” said Cropper. “It’s easy to make demands and threats, but it’s a lot harder to do the careful planning to ensure a safe reopening for our students and communities. We’re encouraged by the many superintendents and school administrators who are listening to our members’ concerns and refining their plans as more information becomes available.”

A resolution passed in late July by OFT’s national union, the American Federation of Teachers recognizes the concerns that are held by teachers, education professionals, and school support workers, and states, “Nothing is off the table when it comes to the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, including supporting local and/or state affiliate safety strikes on a case-by-case basis as a last resort.”

The OFT member survey was emailed to nearly 12,000 K-12 members of OFT, and the initial results include more than 1700 individual responses from 40 local unions. OFT will now be reaching out to members in school districts that are not yet planning to begin the year with remote learning, and encouraging them to complete the survey. 

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