/Survey Most Mississippi teachers want later start date or virtual learning

Survey Most Mississippi teachers want later start date or virtual learning

Nonprofit Mississippi News As teachers and their supporters protest across the state, calling for a delayed beginning to the next school year, a survey of almost 2,400 Mississippi teachers shows that most don’t want to go back to in-person education. The Mississippi Association of Educators was responsible for the Monday survey. The survey surveyed 2,391 people from all 50 counties in Mississippi. 78% of the respondents were teachers. 5% were teaching assistants. All the rest were administration, counselors, or other. 86% of the respondents were negative about the idea of schools being reopened. They expressed concerns about their own health and that of their students. Although the survey did not name teachers, most respondents expressed concern about the ability of their district to put in place safety measures and technology before the school opens. Many teachers expressed concern about how they can teach students and interact with them now that so many things have changed. Grenada County teacher said, “I teach severe/profound education.” “I have students with sensory issues who cannot tolerate wearing a mask for long periods of time. “I need help with that.” “I don’t want to learn a new norm.” A teacher from Pearl River County said that she is not interested in double the work to make a small amount of money. According to the survey report, about 7% said that they supported “reopening schools without any modifications to the traditional school system, citing students’ mental security and health as a concern” as much as the need for normalcy. Another 7% supported the traditional school model with modifications such as mask mandates or social distancing guidelines. At a press conference last Wednesday, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, stated that even if school is delayed for a few weeks it does not mean that things will improve. Dobbs stated that although he was not sure if he had the right answer, there are ways to open schools safely. “…From an infection control perspective, it is logical to close schools. There will be more coronavirus cases if schools are opened. Schools are essential. Dobbs stated that education is essential for all children. Dobbs stated that all children need to be educated. All children should be able to choose to learn online for whatever reason. Districts should also consider other ways that students can continue learning in person. Although the Mississippi Department of Education did not offer any options for how or when virtual learning should be opened, it did provide three options: in-person, virtual and a combination of both. The deadline for districts to decide is Friday. Respondents were asked which method they preferred. Respondents were divided on which method they preferred: 42% prefer a hybrid, 40% prefer virtual education, and 18% prefer traditional in-person education. As the number of deaths and cases change quickly, district plans are constantly updated. Madison County School District was originally set to open next month, but it recently announced that they would delay the opening of schools until Sept. 3, due to a rise in COVID-19-related cases. The second-largest in the state, Jackson Public School District, announced this month it would reopen using a mix of traditional and virtual classes. Eight days later, it announced that the department would go entirely virtual for the fall semester due to the “exponential rise in COVID-19 patients in Mississippi and Hinds County” and more specifically the increase in pediatric cases. Erica Jones, MAE President, asked that school buildings be closed until the average daily infection rate among Mississippians is below 5 percent. Jones stated that the state’s top education officials have been “disappointed” by the lack of leadership in the face of increasing COVID cases. “We are currently in the midst a statewide emergency, and while we would normally defer to school districts knowing their communities’ particular needs better than anyone else, this situation is quite different. It is now that the Department of Education must step in and provide meaningful, standardized guidance.” Before students return to schools, the MAE recommended that schools meet these criteria: The MAE asked state leaders to suspend state testing. The pandemic caused a 95 percent majority of respondents to a poll that recommended state testing be stopped for 2020-21. Although the Mississippi State Board of Education has yet to take that step, state testing was stopped for the prior school year when COVID-19 hit. “Educators would rather be back in their classrooms than anywhere else,” Jones said. Jones stated that we miss our students. “Mississippi educators care deeply about what we do and the students that we serve. Keeping our communities safe and happy is of the utmost priority to all of us.”_x000D