Are safety or childcare concerns causing teachers to opt-out of the school year?

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – School districts around the state are waiting to see how many teachers they’ll have for the school year. Whether it’s safety concerns or teachers who are also parents struggling to figure out childcare for their kids going back to school part-time, there’s a concern that teachers may opt-out of the school year.

“If we can’t accommodate in a way that they can take care of their own kids, and still be a full-time employee, that will create a string of retirements and we want to avoid that. So, right now everybody’s hanging in, they’re not retiring, they’re not quitting. But, if the situation becomes one where they don’t feel safe or they can’t support their family, I’m worried they might do that,” Ellen Bernstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation said.

She said there are a lot of logistical problems to solve for teachers and parents surrounding hybrid learning models. One of them being the need for childcare for teachers who will go to work every week while their own kids stay home part-time. “Besides safety, the number one concern I hear from teachers is what do they do with their own students,” Bernstein said.

The National Education Association of New Mexico conducted a survey of about 3,000 educators in the state and about 1,300 responded that childcare for their families was a big concern. If it forces teachers to stay home, it could add to an already big problem for the state.

“We started off the pandemic with a teacher shortage. And, will this add to the problem? Most likely, it will. I mean, of course, it will,” Mary Parr-Sanchez, President of the NEA of New Mexico, said.

The Public Education Department has also contracted with Regional Educational Cooperatives to provide each school district and state charter school a point of contact who will work with schools to identify the child care and child supervision needs of each school’s staff and community. REC points of contact will reach out to schools in early August, including schools that do not currently have an established relationship with a REC.

ATF also said it’s in talks with the City of Albuquerque to set up child care for essential workers in education, though details need to be worked out. It said its in problem-solving mode every day to support employees and students going back to school.

“This idea that we’re all remote, we know how to do that. The idea we’re all in person, we know how to do that. We have so much to figure out with the hybrid,” Bernstein said. “All of the teachers and all of the other educators like the nurses and the social workers, and the counselors, they’re waiting to see if they can manage the situation. Whether it’s managing their own safety or the safety of their family or managing in terms of daycare. So, far there have not been huge retirements and I think as we continue to solve problems, we have to keep that in mind. Whatever we figure out has to be doable for the employees,” Bernstein said.

Albuquerque Public Schools said its retirements this year are on par with years past and that it has a healthy pool of substitute teachers to fill in if needed. Kelly Education, which oversees substitute teachers for the district, said APS has a stable 1,500 substitute teachers this year with 300 more in the credential process. The state is delaying in-person learning for all public schools at least until after Labor Day.

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