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Education

MEA survey finds teachers overwhelmingly favor virtual learning and worry about in-person classes

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MEA President Paula Herbart
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A majority of Michigan teachers would prefer to move towards entirely online learning as cases of COVID-19 rise statewide.

A new survey released by the Michigan Education Association on Tuesday found many teachers are worried about their own safety and that of their students.

On Sunday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered 9-12 and college classes to move online, but K-8 instruction could remain in-person.

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Credit The MEA

Paula Herbart is the President of the Michigan Education Association. She said the MEA believes for the next three weeks all classes should move to online instruction.

“During this three-week pause, we believe that no one should be face to face. We believe that everyone should be working virtually to get a handle on these COVID numbers,” she said. “It’s not safe for our students, it’s not safe for our educators, and when they don’t feel safe we know our communities aren’t safe.”

Mike Bocian worked on the survey. He said a majority of teachers are concerned about a full return to in-person learning.

“But digging a little deeper when they expressed this concern we asked them what is it that is concerning you with regards to safety? They are as concerned for the safety of their students as they are for their colleagues and the general community,” he said.

Bocian noted that of the teachers who have done some kind of virtual learning only about half believed it was effective.

“We need to make sure we’re listening to our educators who say physical and social distancing isn’t working in the schools right now,” said Herbart. “We need to take a break for a little bit, reassess, come back, and see if we can all come back face to face in some form or fashion.”

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Credit The MEA

In response to our request for comment, a spokesperson with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said the decision to allow K-8 to remain in-person was backed by data.

According to the spokesperson, of the outbreaks, roughly two-thirds are associated with high schools. And, the spokesperson concluded, “younger children are much more in need of in-person instruction.”

Earlier this year the Michigan Education Association raised concerns that many teachers might leave the profession due to the added strain from the pandemic.

So far, President of the MEA Paula Herbart, said those concerns have not come to pass.

“Our retirement rates surprisingly were exactly at almost the exact same rate as they were last year at this time,” she said. “Are we worried? Well, I can tell you that substitutes are hard to find during a pandemic.”