Schools around the country are scrambling to find substitutes, even lowering certification requirements in an effort to fill out positions vacated by teachers who opted out to return to classrooms.
Educators in several states have either filed for retirement of taking leaves of absence, straining staff even before the pandemic created an education crisis.
One of those who plan to leave is Kay Orzechowicz, a 57-year-old English teacher at Indiana’s Griffith High School who originally hoped to teach for a few more years.
However, she felt that the school’s leadership was not fully committed to ensure safety for students and teachers, including practicing proper social distancing and providing safety equipment.
“Overall, there was just this utter disrespect for teachers and their lives,” said Orzechowicz.
“We’re expected to be going back with so little.” When school leaders said teachers would be “going back in-person, full throttle, that’s when I said, ‘I’m not doing it. No.’”
She adds that the pressure to record classes on video is “just wasn’t what I signed up for when I became a teacher.”
Since the start of the school year, teachers in three states have died after contracting coronavirus, and it remains unclear as to how many educators across the country have tested positive with COVID-19.
Trish Whitcomb, executive director of the Indiana Retired Teachers Association said that more than 600 teachers have filed for retirement since July, and survey suggests more could happen as the calendar year progresses.
“I’ve gotten more (teachers) calling me back saying, ‘Well, I’m going to go ahead and retire,’” said Whitcomb.
“Some still wanted to go back in the classroom, but they didn’t think the risk was worth it. They looked at their grandkids and the life they have, and I think they’re saying, ‘I’m just not going to do it.’”