Bright school stationery on old wooden table

A survey by the Arizona Education Association released last week found an overwhelming number of educators believe schools should only reopen when it is deemed safe to do so. 

Of 7,651 educators surveyed by the association, 68 percent opposed returning to classrooms at this point.

The survey also showed 60 percent of the respondents believed their districts were not prepared to reopen schools.

More than 90 percent of the respondents also expressed concerns about themselves, colleagues and even students contracting COVID-19.

“While most respondents supported an online or distance learning model rather than traditional brick and mortar school learning environment, just under half of respondents felt schools had enough teachers and resources to implement an online learning model,” the AEA survey said.

 “Many respondents left comments with concerns about how to engage students, meet the needs of students with special needs and how to ensure students with little or no access to technology will have the opportunity to learn,” it added.

The vast majority, 93 percent, of respondents also believe standardized testing should be suspended until campuses are opened.

As far as what social distancing measures districts should enact, smaller class sizes were the most popular, with 96 percent in favor.

Also ranked high were spreading out students at lunch and recess and staggering arrival and departure times.

But most respondents believed there aren’t enough teachers to achieve social distancing in classrooms or even employees to provide food service and adequate cleaning of facilities.

In a related move, Expect More Arizona released the second part of a May survey of 11,000 teachers on their observations and experiences related to online learning that districts began when schools were shut down for the fourth quarter of the last school year.

According to the survey, 41 percent of teachers felt they were “somewhat” prepared for the transition to an online setting last spring while 35 percent of teachers felt they were not prepared at all. 

Only 14 percent of teachers felt three-quarters or more of their students were fully engaged in online work. 

“Teachers shared that parent and family involvement, internet and device accessibility, work not counting toward final grades per a statewide policy, student motivation, and constant contact from teachers all played a role in whether or not students were engaged,” Expect More Arizona said in a release.

Of the survey respondents, it said 69 percent reported that students had an adult or sibling at home to help them with online schoolwork. 

The survey also showed 39 percent of teachers felt that few special education students had their educational needs met during online learning.

Mesa Public Schools officials said during a July 1 governing board study session that the online curriculum has undergone rigorous changes that will benefit and teachers alike. 

They expect it to be a much smoother transition to online learning than what took place in the spring, when schools were forced to implement emergency plans on a moment’s notice. 

The district also hopes to have most of its 45,000 devices ready for students by Aug. 4, putting off refresh projects in two high schools in order to do so.

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