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Not all educators on board with ASD’s return to in-person learning plan

AEA president says there’s a high probability that resignations and the use of leave will increase, should ASD decide to fully go back to face to face learning
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 10:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Thursday, the Anchorage School District announced its plan to return Pre-K through second grade students to school buildings starting on Nov. 16. However, not everyone is on board with the plan.

“Understanding that need for young people, the generational setback whether it is academic or mental health or social health set back that will be experienced for generations if we don’t do something for our young people,” ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop said.

The school district met with state and local medical experts before coming to the decision. The school district is confident in its mitigation plans and protocols moving forward.

The age group that seems to be struggling the most is ASD’s youngest.

“Most of my life I have been a pediatrician,” Anchorage’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Chandler said. “It’s very clear that kids at this age, K through second grade really need to learn how to read well. If kids don’t learn that, by the time they hit third grade they have a very difficult time catching up.”

On Friday, the Anchorage Health Department held a news conference explaining their stance for students returning to schools.

Not everyone is on board with the return to the classroom. Anchorage Education Association President Corey Aist says a majority of educators do not feel safe returning to classrooms.

“The membership want students and staff to be safe and during the pandemic, the increase in spread currently being witnessed in Anchorage and the state, we don’t think it is a good idea to bring back anybody to our buildings in that capacity,” Aist said.

Aist said despite ASD’s assertion of strong and strict protocols in place, it’s still not enough.

“ASD can have the best protocols and they have worked very hard but it’s going to be the human factor,” Aist said. “The ability of all involved to follow those protocols. Whether that is complacency or fatigue or just being comfortable working together so we walk into each other’s environments without a mask because we are just comfortable, all those add up to the human factor and then the protocols are not followed.”

The school district recently spoke with all elementary teachers this week who, in turn, are contacting teachers and families to gauge interest in coming back. The school district is also reshuffling around 15 teachers to different classrooms and schools to accommodate smaller class sizes.

“We want to be sure that when parents say my child is going to come back, if you can picture elementary school, there is a name on a desk and that’s where I sit,” Bishop said. “It’s going to be even more important now that students understand spatial awareness, the cleaning, the personal hygiene, the mask-wearing, that doesn’t just start when they come to us, that starts now in preparing everyone.”

Aist says there is no debate when it comes to teachers wanting to be back in classrooms with their students but it has to be done at the right time with safety first and foremost.

Aist says if the phase-in back to buildings continues, the school district may have a hard time finding enough teachers.

“Every other day or so I get an email from a member who speaks to either resigning because of safety concerns for themselves or their family or taking long term leave,” Aist said. “There’s a high probability that resignations and the use of leave will increase should we go back to face to face learning.”

The school district understands the concerns people have and the choices they may have to make.

“There will be personal decisions,” Bishop said. “Those decisions are made every year in regard to what we can and can’t do and a lot of it is based on our families at home and it should continue to be that way, we are all people first.”

Even though there may be some disagreements, Aist says they’re not “in a fight” with ASD. In the end, both sides want the same thing: the best education for the students.

The next phase of student return is currently being discussed but ultimately will be based on this first phase, which is now less than one month away.

Important AEA/ASD Documents

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