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Survey: Michigan public school educators concerned about return to full in-person learning

The Michigan Education Association released the results of a statewide survey of more than 4,700 educators and the continued impact of COVID-19 on public education.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges for educators and students across the state. 

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) conducted a statewide survey of more than 4,700 educators and support staff, who are members of the association. The findings related to COVID-19's continued impact on public education, including a vast majority of educators concerned about a full return to in-person learning as infection rates continue to surge. 

MEA President Paula Herbart, joined with GBAO Research pollster Michael Bocian, presented the survey results in a press conference Tuesday.

The survey found a vast majority of educators are concerned about a full return to in-person learning as cases spike statewide.

“The health and safety of our public school students, educators and families has never been more important as we continue to see COVID-19 cases skyrocket across the state,” Herbart said in the press conference. “This survey shows us Michigan’s public school employees are concerned about the safety of re-opening for full in-person learning, with their personal safety and that of their students and colleagues as their top priorities.

“With COVID-19 cases on the rise it has never been more important for our front-line educators to be involved in any decisions about a safe return to school,” she added. “We will bring the findings of our survey to policymakers and decision-makers so they understand what front-line educators are feeling and doing regarding this pandemic.”

More than 4,700 teachers, support staff and other public school employees who are MEA members responded to the online survey conducted Nov. 5-11. MEA provided the following key findings:

  • 84% of those surveyed are concerned about the safety of re-opening for full in-person learning.
  • Of those, 72% listed personal safety, 71% listed student safety, and 66% listed safety of colleagues as top concerns.
  • Of those not fully in-person currently, 68% said it’s unlikely their districts will be ready to reopen for full in-person learning in January, as some districts are planning
  • 91% of those who have returned to some level of in-person learning said mask wearing is being observed by employees.
  • 78% of those who have returned to some level of in-person learning said mask wearing is being observed by students.
  • 18% of those who have returned to some level of in-person learning said social distancing is being observed by students.
  • 37% said they are required to report to their workplace — even if working remotely.
  • 74% want either full virtual learning or a hybrid model at this time.
  • 47% said their concerns have not been addressed in their school district’s plans for a safe return to school.

On Sunday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an emergency order that enacts a three-week pause on social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising infection rates. 

Under the order, which goes into effect Wednesday, Nov. 18, high schools were ordered to proceed with remote learning only, ending in-person classes. The order does not extend to K-8 schools. In-person schooling for grades K-8 may continue, as well as childcare, if done with strong mitigation measures including mask requirements. 

Back in April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that closed all public and private K-12 schools, forcing schools to create remote learning and food distribution plans. As the pandemic continued and rates fluctuated, some schools adapted a hybrid plan, came back in-person in full, or remained remote. 

RELATED: COVID-19 pandemic causing problems with preschool programs

In this most recent surge, before the 3-week pause, schools started to transition back to remote learning as they face new outbreaks. As of Monday, Nov. 17, more than a dozen West Michigan schools were added to MDHHS' list of new outbreaks.

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