Seaside School District is bringing students back to campus in phases, but teachers maintain a variety of concerns, from worry over contracting the coronavirus before receiving the vaccine to not having access to child care.
Kindergartners and first graders started in-person instruction at Pacific Ridge Elementary School last week, with second and third graders set to return March 1 and March 16. Sixth graders were back on campus at Seaside Middle School as of Monday, and Seaside High School has started limited in-person instruction. Cannon Beach Academy is scheduled to resume in-person instruction on March 29.
While the district moves forward with its reopening plans, many teachers remain burdened by stress and a variety of concerns. According to a monthly survey distributed among teachers, the past two months have seen a dramatic increase in teacher anxiety, Seaside Education Association President Chuck Albright told the school board during last week’s meeting.
In February, 73% of teachers expressed feeling “more stress than usual” or more stress than they “have ever experienced” — up from 52% in November and 50% in January. While the move from comprehensive distance learning to hybrid instruction is one explanation, “I think it’s more than that,” Albright said.
“Digging deeper into the data from these surveys, you notice a thread of discontent growing,” he said, adding that the word “comfortable” has been thrown around frequently in the past two weeks. “But there is a difference between being uncomfortable and having concerns.”
Teachers have been trying to convey concerns about numerous issues, from rolling out hybrid learning prior to vaccines and the lack of COVID-19 sick days to on-site safety and child care.
“Those concerns were dismissed as just not being in our comfort zone,” Albright said. “The fact is, those concerns are real and need to be addressed.”
For example, the idea of district-provided child care was brought up during discussions with district administration but “dismissed as not really being something that many members would need,” he added. In actuality, on the survey, 90% rated it as either “very important” or “somewhat important,” and 12% said they would use it.
When asked whether educator concerns are being considered when decisions are being made, 56% of respondents agreed this was happening at a building level, but only 15% said that is the case with district-level administration and only 14% believe their concerns are being considered by the school board.
“There is a lot of healing that will need to happen in the coming months,” Albright said. “Hopefully we can come together on the issues pertaining to student and employee safety. … What we need now is some assurance that you will help to address our members’ concerns.”
At the meeting, the school board also approved the Northwest Regional Education Service District local service plan for the 2021-22 school year. The district provides services to 20 school districts in Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook and Washington counties, and two-thirds of them must approve the plan for it to go into effect. The local service plan addresses four key areas: special education; technology; instructional support; and administrative support. Seaside is supported by 13 dedicated staff members from the service district.