Becoming ill and student learning loss are top of mind for many educators, according to a new survey from MissionSquare Research Institute.
Ninety percent of the K-12 employees surveyed are "concerned" about students falling behind due to the pandemic, with 65% reporting being "extremely" or "very concerned." Those who work in K-12 schools are significantly more likely to consider themselves at a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work, with 47% of K-12 employees feeling that in-person work is very or extremely risky.
Other key findings of the survey include:
When asked what would improve the workplace, K-12 employees most often recommended promoting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safety guidelines (22%), issuing bonuses or raises (21%), and allowing work from home/remote work and flexible hours (13%).
Most K-12 and other government employees say the pandemic has impacted the nature of their jobs, but K-12 employees were nearly twice as likely as other government workers to report difficulty in adjusting to these changes (42% and 22%, respectively).
K-12 employees most commonly reported feeling stressed (52%), burnt out/fatigued (52%), and/or anxious (34%) about COVID-19 while at work and were significantly more likely than other government employees to report feeling stressed and burnt out/fatigued.
Half of the K-12 survey respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a negative financial impact on them and their families. Far fewer other government employees (35%) reported a negative financial impact.
“We know it’s [COVID-19] having a big impact on all state and local government employees, but we thought there are certain areas where it may be affecting teachers and other public school personnel particularly hard, and the results from our survey really support that in terms of showing that there’s unique concerns that K through 12 employees have when it comes to the pandemic in terms of being more concerned about things like keeping themselves and their family safe,” senior research manager at MissionSquare, Rivka Liss-Levinson told Yahoo Finance.
Illinois STEM teacher Eden Mosoff told Yahoo Finance that she worries about getting sick while teaching.
“I happen to be vaccinated. I know most of my colleagues are, but not necessarily all of them. And I teach at an elementary school, so the kids are not. So it’s definitely a concern and I’ve had kids in front of me one day and at home quarantining the next,” she said. "It’s always in the back of my mind.” she said.
Mark Luxembourg, a high school teacher from Rochester, New York, is on medical leave due to health issues that make him more susceptible to COVID-19 complications. A few years back, Luxembourg found himself in need of a liver transplant, and one of his former students stepped forward and donated a portion of hers. A teacher for 20 years, Luxembourg said leaving the classroom was a heartbreaking decision.
“I won’t lie, I was an emotional mess ... [But] at the end of the day I can confidently say that I made a difference as an educator — a former student saved my life! I have my health, the support of family, friends, students and countless others.”
Adrienne Ortiz is an 8th-grade science teacher from New York City. She cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical issue. She tells Yahoo Finance that the lack of virtual learning options is unfair to parents and students who are most at risk.
“There should definitely be a virtual option. Forget about my situation, but when I know that there are a lot of children who are immunocompromised. I just feel that those kids suffer so much. ... Having that option for students and for teachers in those situations would be fair, but unfortunately this year that was not an option.”
Liss-Levinson reminds Yahoo Finance that teachers are putting their lives on the line by simply going to work during this pandemic.
“Teachers that are literally dying doing their jobs and this is not what they signed up for. They’re not a fire[fighter] or a police officer ... These are people who want to teach America’s youth and we’re seeing them really struggle.”
The survey consisted of commentary from more than 1,200 state and local government employees fielded by Greenwald Research. It is the third in a series done on the impact of COVID-19 on the state and local government workforce.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.