New teacher back-to-school COVID survey reveals ventilation biggest concern, pandemic forcing retirements

Connecticut

Conn. (WTNH) — One of the state’s largest teachers’ unions released the results of a back-to-school COVID survey.

The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) says the survey shows teachers welcome in-person learning, but safety concerns highlight a profession under stress.

Holding class outside is a perfect solution to what’s worrying teachers most: poor air filtration in schools. But that will only last so long given the change in seasons in New England.

Don Williams, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, describes the environment during a pandemic when the weather is hot.

“Imagine sitting in a room with temperatures in the 80s or the 90s with high humidity for hours on end trying to concentrate and learn,” Williams said.

The new CEA Back-to-School Survey shows indoor air quality is the biggest stressor to feeling safe with in-person learning.

The 1,000 teachers who answered the survey were mostly suburban female elementary school teachers with 20 years of experience.

“Your teachers’ working conditions are your students learning conditions,” said Vice President of CEA Joslyn DeLancey.

In the study, 97% said ventilation was a top concern. 27% say improved ventilation was being implemented.

Williams says in Connecticut law there are higher standards for pets in shelters.

“It’s time that we are as humane to our school children and the staff who work in our schools as we are to animals in pet stores,” Williams said.

Connecticut is receiving $1.1 billion in federal COVID education money.

The teachers union is asking Gov. Lamont and the legislature to put pressure on local districts to fund costly ventilation upgrades, especially in elementary schools, where students under 12 can not get vaccinated for COVID.

In Manchester, the town overwhelmingly voted yes a few years ago to spend money on an overhaul of the school district’s air systems.

Kate Dias, CEA President, says the investment is critical.

“Upgrading facilities is something that will impact long beyond that three years,” Dias said.

In the meantime, despite an 89% vaccination rate among CEA teachers, many are also concerned about the enforcement of proper social distancing and weekly COVID testing for both students and staff who opt out of the governor’s vaccine mandate.

It remains unclear who is doing testing and who is paying for it.

The stress is so high, according to the survey, 38% say the pandemic made them more likely to retire or leave the profession.

Dias says it sets up another issue of how to fill the gap.

“30% of our membership is roughly 16,000 teachers. That’s a lot of people to be talking about vacating the profession early,” Dias said.

It is also worth noting that a majority of teachers want the COVID booster shot and agree with the Governor’s school mask mandate.

Lamont’s COVID mandates are set to expire on Sept. 30, unless he asks the legislature to extend his powers. Right now that is unclear.

To read the full survey, click here.

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