LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — While state leaders are deciding how schools can reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, school districts are wondering if they’ll have enough employees to reopen schools with.
“We’re wondering how many will retire instead of coming back to school if they have concerns for their own health or their family’s health. How many folks might want to just take a year off or just quit and move into some other line of work,” said Eric Kennedy, governmental relations director for the Kentucky School Boards Association.
One in five Kentucky teachers are eligible for retirement right now, according to Kennedy.
Fayette County Education Association President Jessica Hiler told LEX 18 some teachers are considering the option to retire now rather than increase their chances to contract COVID-19 if their schools ask them to return in-person.
“They don’t know what they’re going to do right now because since there’s not a plan, you don’t know how to react to something when there’s not a plan. But I think we’ll have a fair amount of teachers that will say, ‘I just can’t. If we have to go back in person, I can’t do that’,” Hiler said. “I mean teachers that I’m hearing from are even concerned to go back in for meetings in the school before the kids even get there. I mean that’s even a concern. It’s across the board just being really nervous about getting back around larger groups of people.”
Hiler said teachers are concerned for their personal safety and what being exposed to the coronavirus could mean for their families at home. Even if social distancing and wearing facemasks is perfectly enforced, there is still a risk related to being in a room of people.
“We can’t sacrifice our kids or our staff. We can’t. We just have to keep everyone’s safety at the forefront of the conversation. I think that’s the key,” said Hiler.
Another question educators have is who will take care of their children while they’re working if school schedules are staggered?
“If we don’t want to give our school-age kids to our elderly grandparents or parents, then what happens to our own kids? How do we balance that too? That’s huge,” said Hiler.
If a shortage of educators does occur, Kennedy said there is a possibility reopening plans will shift last minute.
“Any time that there are not the adults in the building that we need to do education well in a safe way, you will see school closures perhaps,” he said.
At the moment, Hiler said though teachers are weighing the options they have, many are waiting for individual districts to announce reopening plans before they make final decisions.