AFT-Mon President explains teacher concerns found in COVID-19 survey

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County teachers are asking for a safer workplace before returning to the classroom.

That’s what the President of the Mon County chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is stating after a survey was presented to the Mon County Board of Education Tuesday. This survey, exclaimed that a significant amount of teachers are concerned about the rollout planned by the Mon County BoE in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to go back when it’s safe,” said AFT-Mon President Sam Brunett. “And right now the overwhelming majority of those who take the survey don’t feel safe entering the classroom under the current plan being provided,” he said.

The survey taken by three hundred teachers and staff working at Mon County schools showed a resounding seventy percent of respondents were concerned about the current plan and the safety of their family during the COVID-19 pandemic. While no intricate details were presented to the BoE Tuesday, Brunett stated on WAJR’s Talk of the Town that there were several micro aspects of the plan that lead to concerns. This included the level of virtual learning that was in place and social distancing measures at certain schools.

“We’ve gone from a six foot distance with a mask, to three foot distance with a mask,” said Brunett about some of the layouts. “Now in some cases we’re being told ‘sorry we can’t even afford three feet because of the footprint of the building so masks will have to suffice,” he said.

Brunett mentioned a couple of alternative options that would help ease the conerns of Mon County teachers and staff. The obvious option that was mentioned by the survey and further emphasized by the AFT-Mon Chapter President, was the need to expand virtual learning options so that social distancing measures can be properly in place at schools. With concerns of COVID-19 spreading in a student population coinciding with general teaching concerns regarding the education of children themselves, Brunett feels there can be middle ground found.

“If we were to offer our schools as a community resource while remote was going on, we could address all of those certain that people have concerns about,” he said.

As of now, the Mon County BoE appears to be moving forward with there September 8th reopening with the social distancing measures in place, staying in place with modifed learning schedules that vary for students from elementary all the way through high school. For the AFT, they have given permission on a national level for teachers to start “safety strikes” to those who feel they are being forced to work. While Brunett states that this is a last resort, he also stated that if concerns aren’t addressed, you could see some Mon County Teachers making big decisions ahead of the school year.

“I do think that we have things in place that can help, but I also think that this current plan is giving our teachers and frankly our parents anxiety,” he said.