Fall 2020 Reopening Considerations Survey

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges into every facet of our lives. It has exposed profound inequities in our public school system and created serious, complicated problems for our students, educators, and communities to navigate. While it has been our hope that school buildings could open in a few short weeks, it has become abundantly clear that we are in no position to proceed as planned. We cannot, and should not, rush back into buildings simply to comply with the current calendared start date when students’ and educators’ health and safety are at risk.

Educators are fearful for our health and the health of our students. We are worried about our families and our students’ families. With the number of COVID cases growing daily, the absence of leadership from our state’s top education officials has been disheartening to say the least. We are in the midst of a statewide crisis, and while we would typically defer to a school district knowing their communities’ specific needs better than anyone, this is markedly different. It is now time for the Department of Education to step in and provide meaningful, standardized guidance.

As we look to health care professionals for guidance on when it is safe to return to our buildings, it is imperative that the state takes its cues on how we return to school by listening to the people who know our schools best: educators.

To that end, we asked Mississippi educators to take a survey to provide critically-needed input as COVID cases continue to rise and we barrel toward the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Nearly 2,400 educators representing all 82 counties in the state responded to our request. They are a cross section of the thousands of educators in Mississippi’s public school system: teacher assistants, certified teachers, school administrators, and district administrators are all represented.

This feedback—honest and, in some instances, difficult to read—must be taken seriously as state leaders make decisions about schools reopening. We must heed these educators’ warnings and take their concerns seriously. Their unmatched understanding of the challenges we face inside school buildings is invaluable and ignoring it needlessly jeopardizes the health of Mississippi’s students and educators.

Or, as one Jackson County educator said more plainly: “It is too dangerous for both the teachers and students. Teachers should not have to risk their lives to teach.”

The survey’s findings will help guide our professional development offerings, inform the issues around which we organize, and provide important on-the-ground feedback as we work with policymakers to ensure our students and educators are prioritized during this uncertain time.

You can view the full report below.