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Survey finds teachers don't feel it is safe to return to school, especially in Douglas and Lancaster counties

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Posted at 10:12 AM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 17:02:17-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A recently conducted survey shows that many Nebraska educators don't believe it is safe to re-open schools for in-person teaching, and educators in Douglas and Lancaster County are even more concerned about health risks.

The Return to Learn survey conducted by the Nebraska State Education Association found that of 3,000 Nebraska educators surveyed, fewer than half believe their school will be able to safely re-open for in-person teaching and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two-thirds of educators in Douglas and Lancaster counties say based on current trends, it is unlikely it will be safe to re-open their school buildings.

Only 48 percent of teachers statewide believe their school will be able to open safely this month.

“This is typically when teachers are excited and looking forward to getting back to their classrooms and their students,” said Jenni Benson, president of the NSEA. “This year, teachers – and parents – are apprehensive about whether schools have put in place proper safeguards to transition back to in-person teaching and learning. Educators are deeply concerned about the health and safety of their students, families and themselves.”

Forty-five percent of survey respondents throughout the state said that based on current trends and what they know of their school district’s plan, they are not ready to return to work in-person. In Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties, that percentage rises to 55%.

Concerns about personal safety and student safety are the top two reasons 80 percent of educators do not feel ready to return to in-person teaching and learning.

“Some of our schools do not have proper safeguards to transition back to in-person instruction,” said Benson. “There is a range of safety measures that every school district should implement as outlined in the guidance from the Nebraska Department of Education. Daily sanitation of schools, including disinfecting handles, surfaces and bathrooms on a regular basis. Requiring students and staff to regularly wash hands – and having sanitizer and enough cleaning supplies available throughout buildings."

The NSEA is asking for a mask requirement and limiting of student groups to maintain social distancing.

“For some, it will mean moving to distance learning or a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning instruction," Benson said.

The survey also showed that 32% of respondents were more likely to retire or leave the education profession earlier than planned because of the pandemic. The NSEA says this would worsen the teacher shortages already being experienced statewide.

Only 33% of retired educators who substituted last year were willing to teach again this year, the survey found.

"Since retired teachers are a primary source of substitute teachers for school systems across the state, this will put even greater stress on school systems as teachers exposed to COVID-19 are quarantined due to exposure or illness," the NSEA said.