Teachers share concerns of returning to the classroom during pandemic

Back to School

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Every year around this time, teachers, parents and students get the back-to-school butterflies but this year they’re more nervous because they are returning to classrooms while COVID-19 continues to spread.

It’s an emotional time for teachers.

“It’s a really tough situation I don’t want to be put in but I have bills to pay,” Ferry Pass Middle School Teacher Hannah Ard said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t have an option to stay home.”

From Mobile to Northwest Florida, the teachers’ passion to do their job is still there.

“I want to teach..I want to,” Mobile County Teacher Michelle Holloway said.

The way in which they do that is raising concerns. Teachers don’t get an option but many school districts are giving parents options for their children: virtual or in the classroom.

In Escambia County, Fla., a poll by the Escambia Educators Assocation shows 42 percent of teachers don’t feel safe returning.

“I think a great idea is a push back start date or start remotely,” Ard said.

Less than two weeks ago, Ard and other teachers drove around the Escambia County School District building demanding a mask mandate for everyone returning in person. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said that will not happen.

“It’s an unmanageable mandate,” Thomas said.

Neighboring Baldwin County is providing options for virtual learning as well as Santa Rosa County. In Santa Rosa, they are also making masks mandatory for those in the classrooms.

“Wearing a mask saves lives,” Santa Rosa Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said. “It helps us. Second of all, a third grader is gonna have a difficult time keeping his or her mask on so I think we’re looking at a lot of compassion and grace there.”

Mobile County is doing things differently. They will delay the start of school to September 1 and the first nine weeks will be only online or remote.

Holloway said she hopes it stays that way because she’s a breast cancer survivor and at high risk.

“I still have to go to the infusion center every six months,” she said. “The saying says Safer At Home. I don’t even know if I can put it into simpler terms than that.”

MCPSS says when they do return, they will be deep cleaning every classroom and building but some think that’s not enough.

“It’s not gonna help us,” one MCPSS teacher told WKRG News 5 anonymously. “It’s kinda working against the whole reason why we’re teaching from home.”

As school starts back in the coming weeks, anxiety is mounting for teachers who say they have no choice but to do all they can to protect themselves, their families, their students and their students’ families from COVID-19.

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