In an effort to gather information from our members reflecting on the 2019-20 school year and looking forward to the 2020-21 school year, MSTA sent out the survey with questions about the effect of COVID-19 on school employees and students. The survey ran June16-23 and 2,539 people responded. We are grateful to our members for taking time to answer our questions. We will be sharing the responses with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other stakeholders. This is the second survey MSTA members have responded to during this pandemic.

When asked how they would rate the actions of various individuals in response to the pandemic, respondents gave school employees the highest approval ratings. Elected officials (governor, local government and school boards) had the lowest approval percentages.

94% of respondents said that their supervisor or administrator has been either extremely supportive or supportive during the school closure.

Over half of respondents’ districts had yet to determine a plan for returning to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year. As seen in later responses, this has led to anxiety about the unknown of the upcoming school year for school employees.

57% of people responding said they are concerned about contracting COVID-19 when schools reopen. In other question responses, many are concerned about contracting the illness and passing it on to immune-compromised relatives or students.

More than 70% respondents think that state testing should be eliminated for the 2020-21 school year in order to add instructional time to the school year to make up for lost time from the 2019-20 school year. They could also provide their own ideas to this response. A sample of the answers provided for “other”:

  • I think we should be planning for quality virtual learning and directing resources to supporting teachers who may need to move back to virtual learning this school year.
  • Reduce the amount of extra work added to teachers’ workload. Let them meet the kids where they are and focus on building and teaching the skills they need without any filler or added expectations and paperwork. Be flexible in testing and accountability measures understanding that the teachers AND KIDS are still adjusting and are going to need time to catch up and adjust to the new normal.
  • This might be a good time for districts to consider a year-round calendar model, in which after every 6-8 weeks, there is a scheduled break.
  • Don’t overreact! Let’s try things as normal and not try to adjust the calendar or the school hours right away.
  • Change classes to block schedule plus do some online days.
  • I am not opposed to longer days or year, but I do believe if teachers can truly focus on the foundations and what was missed early in the fall they will be able to complete the typical course work as the year progresses. If teachers are not so concerned about student and school performance on “the test” then they can truly focus on the students’ needs, not the school’s or state’s.
  • Student learning levels are always at a continual state of evaluation. It seems a practical approach to evaluate where students are when they return and plan accordingly–a practice no different than in any other situation.

In response to the question “What is the most important issue for districts and policy makers to consider about the next school year?” members wanted to make sure that their perspective and feedback is taken into account when making plans for the next school year. Below is a sampling of their answers.

  • being reasonable about social distancing in classrooms
  • I think right now, practical decision-making needs to take place that factors in the mental health of students and building staff. I’m concerned when I see options like extending the school day or going for more time. I already live the majority of my life at school, and when I’m not at school, I’m working on grading or lesson planning at my home. I’m confident that decisions like more time won’t come with more pay, and then would simultaneously reduce the time I spend at home working on tasks for school. It makes me worry about the increase in teacher burnout. Additionally, students are going through a lot right now in their own home lives. Increasing their school time or responsibilities beyond what they’re accustomed to could be significantly detrimental to their mental health.
  • Safety for everyone and improve efficiency for virtual school. We need to be better prepared and have a plan in hand.
  • The health of the students, teachers, staff, and all of those people’s families.
  • The first issues that come to my mind are sanitizing procedures, coping with learning loss, and moving forward despite funding cuts
  • Safety first, but there has to be a focus on student learning. Starting a school year on line is a LOT different than ending a school year on line. We already had a relationship with our students which increased the likelihood of them turning in work online. At the beginning of the year it needs to be seated classes so we can establish routines, expectations and most importantly relationships to encourage learning.
  • Equity among students and families in accessibility to learning.
  • Internet connection and technology for students and teachers in rural areas
  • How to keep students and staff safe and healthy but not just physically from COVID-19. Mental health and reducing anxiety should be at the top of the list of considerations as well.
  • Loss of funding. We are being asked to fill HUGE gaps not just instructional, but financially. This makes the job even more taxing.
  • Realizing that some teachers and students are immunocompromised or live with people who are. We should have alternative learning for those students.
  • Teachers are going to get sick. Teachers need to have sick leave that will allow them to get well without losing pay. Districts need to have better substitute availability as well.

Word cloud of the responses to “What is the most important issue for districts and policy makers to consider about the next school year?”

When asked “What is your greatest concern regarding returning to school in the Fall?” respondents provided answers that fit into a few themes. Many are worried about the uncertainty of what the school year will look like as more information is coming and decisions have yet to be made. Another common topic was about unreasonable expectations being placed on school staff regarding social distancing, enforcing mask-wearing, cleaning and sanitizing, having elementary students in one classroom all day, and being required to teach both online and in-person. Some are worried parents will keep their children from attending in-person out of caution, while others are concerned parents will keep sending sick children to school due to lack of childcare.

  • My main concern is that I don’t believe the state of Missouri will receive any genuine guidance from its state government. I worked for a different school district last year, and the governor refusing to make decisive decision in regard to COVID left our district behind and without clear guidance. My fear is that infection rates will spread, and without strong leadership at the state level, districts will flounder and fall behind. It’s much harder for our local superintendents to take the brunt of decision making versus being unified by a decision as a state.
  • That students will have to deal with circumstances beyond their control and not be able to learn as much as possible
  • If schools decide to go with the CDC recommendations, how will it work? Those recommendations do not seem possible considering infrastructure, manpower, and then how children, especially young children will handle, or not handle, the suggested safety measures.
  • Due to the lack of internet and virtual capabilities in rural areas, I am concerned how far behind a lot of the students will be. I had a number of students without enough devices to complete a lot of the work. One student had no internet at all and I had to copy everything she did on my own home computer and printer and then deliver it to her house multiple times each week. Working parents struggled to help the students especially if they had several kids in school. It was not an ideal situation and I am very concerned what we are all facing when we return to school.
  • Keeping students safe and engaged in learning.
  • Acclimating students to expectations and routines after being out for 5 months; catching them up with missed standards.
  • Meeting the restrictions that will be in place and still provide a fun, safe learning environment.
  • Funding for our schools and possibly getting sick.
  • Teachers are going to get sick. Teachers need to have sick leave that will allow them to get well without losing pay. Districts need to have better substitute availability as well.
  • Ability to develop important relationships with students while maintaining an environment that doesn’t expose all of us to sickness.
  • Being the parent of a high risk child, I am extreme worried about an outbreak of the Covid 19 virus within our district.
  • I am not concerned with returning in the fall as we would normally. I am concerned with restrictions and limits that might be set by state officials and board members.

Word cloud of responses to “What is your greatest concern regarding returning to school in the Fall?”