NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new survey conducted by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) finds many Metro teachers do not feel safe teaching students in classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MNEA sent the survey to members who are working in elementary school or exceptional education settings, and encouraged them to share it with non-members. The survey was open for two days, and received 620 responses. The responses came from 84 schools, including all 73 MNPS elementary schools.
Of those surveyed, 75% said they wanted the district to return to 100% virtual learning. Only 13 individuals indicated they want the district to return to 100% in-person learning. The remaining 20% was evenly split between supporting the district’s original approach of gradually phasing in grade-levels to in-person classes or keeping the current situation of elementary and exceptional education classes in-person but holding off on adding more grades until COVID-19 numbers recede.
"A lot of people are arguing about whether teachers want to be back or not, and most of the people who are arguing are not teachers, and are not in the classroom," said Amanda Kail, President of the MNEA. "We felt it was important that what we were doing was driven by data, not just emotion."
Kail said she would have liked to see more responses, but felt the lopsided numbers sent a strong message that the majority of teachers do not feel safe in the classroom. There are 4,053 teachers and support staff in Metro elementary schools.
Many teachers who responded also commented that their biggest concerns were the inability to social distance, classrooms not being adequately cleaned, and students not being able to keep their masks on or stay away from their peers all day.
"A number of teachers who responded told us initially they wanted to be back in the classroom, but once they were there, they changed their minds," said Kail. "That was important to note. Until you are in that situation, I am not sure people understand how difficult it is."
The MNEA is currently advocating for all classes to return to online, and for additional support for students and families who may be struggling as a result.
Going forward, MNEA hopes the data will help leaders make informed decisions about whether or not to close school buildings. Kail said she met with district leaders Thursday to share the results of the survey.
Director of Metro Schools, Dr. Adrienne Battle said in a statement: “I appreciate our working relationship with the MNEA and the teachers they represent. We worked closely with MNEA to identify PPE needs for employees and to provide those items to each staff member. We paused the phase-in process for bringing back students in Middle School due to increased spread of COVID-19 in the community, and will continue working with the Health Department, which oversees our school nurse program and contact tracing, to monitor cases in our school to determine whether transmission is occurring inside of our buildings to ensure a safe working and learning environment.”
Due to the increased spread of the COVID-19 throughout the Nashville community, last week MNPS leaders delayed the return of 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to the classroom. Currently, students in Pre-K through 4th grade, and those with exceptional needs who chose in-person learning will still report to school while district leaders continue to evaluate safety conditions in schools.
The MNEA has about 2,000 members and represents about a third of the teachers in the district.