Teachers Show Health Concerns for School Reopening


Media by Lajja Patel

The Messenger surveyed MHS staff members about how they felt about school reopening. Here are the results.

Jocelyn Theiss, Spanish teacher, was anxious about school reopening Thursday, Nov. 12, because of the interaction she’d then have with numerous staff and students.

“The idea of being exposed to more people outside of my normal social circle from the past eight months is daunting,” Theiss said.

Theiss said she is returning to school after maternity leave and now has a 4-month-old baby boy, Daniel. Because Daniel is a newborn, Theiss is concerned about him being affected by COVID-19, especially after she is exposed to a number of people at work.

Theiss said she plans to be very careful with her baby around and make sure social distance and wear masks during visits to see grandparents.

Theiss is not alone in her concerns. Janet Koch, business teacher, is worried about her personal health.

Koch said she is an overweight 60 year old who has high blood pressure, a combination that is not ideal during the pandemic.

Koch said returning to school will expose her to  more people and increase her chances of contracting COVID-19 therefore impacting her family life.

I have small grandchildren and don’t want to bring something home to them and I don’t want to be isolated from them either,” Koch said.

Koch said she feels teacher’s concerns were disregarded in the decision to return to in-person schooling and only parents’ interests were considered. 

“I feel like all decisions are made under the cover of darkness, that the superintendents are in their ivory tower and only care about keeping the parents happy and do not care about the health, welfare and emotional well-being of the teachers and staff; therefore, I feel like teachers have become collateral damage in this COVID war,” Koch said.

Koch said the district makes decisions solely based on maintaining their image and using encouraging words to win teachers’ support. 

“The district banks on our devotion when they make decisions, and then they give us a pep talk telling us we are awesome and amazing at our craft, but this isn’t enough considering the gravity of the current situation,” Koch said.

Koch said she has reached her breaking point this year and believes the district has failed to recognize that COVID-19 is far worse now than it was in March.

“They are rigid, and are the enforcers of policies, but never consider the human aspect of anyone’s situation,” Koch said.

Some staff, however, looked forward to returning to school and trusted the district despite the health concerns.

Edward Bolton, science teacher, was eager to teach in-person again.

Bolton said he is sure the district has put great precautions in place to insure everyone remains in good health. Although health is a concern, Bolton said educating his students properly is more vital.

Bolton said virtual learning is just an alternative to true learning; therefore, returning back to school with precautions should be the main focus. 

Online is for the birds. It is a hollow shell of an education,” Bolton said.

Assistant Principal Dr. Richard Regina is keeping a positive attitude about students returning to school and said extra precautions besides the obvious wearing of masks and social distancing are being put in place for teachers to feel safe.

“Some teachers have requested plexiglass and face shields, which we have purchased,” Dr. Regina said. 

Principal Dr. Steve Hankins is aware of the worries about health that teachers have and said the decision to return was not taken lightly.

“The Board and superintendent based their decision on the recommendation from St. Louis County to return students to school as well as input from other community stakeholders, including teachers,” Dr. Hankins said. 

Dr. Hankins said he shares the health concerns teachers have and understands how tough the situation is for them. 

“I am always concerned about our teachers and their families,” Dr. Hankins said.