One-Fifth Of Arizona's Teachers Are Over 55. Can Schools Make Classrooms Safe For Them?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average age of an Arizona teacher is about 40 — but one-fifth of teachers in the state are over 55. That puts them at a greater risk of serious complications if they contract COVID-19.
So far during this pandemic, several teachers have gotten ill or died from the disease, including a 61-year-old educator from a district near Globe.
The president of the Arizona Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Ralph Quintana says schools can barely afford basic supplies — let alone masks.
“I just don’t think districts really have the money to put in some of the safeguards they’d like to — they don’t have the funds,” he said. "If you're a high-risk teacher with underlying concerns, what do you do for them? Do you give them better masks?"
Experts recommend temperature checks to prevent symptomatic students and faculty from attending class. There's no money for that either, he says.
"The money to supply each one of the homeroom teachers with the ability to do that is just not in our district's ability," Quintana said.
Arizona is already in the midst of a teacher shortage, and Quintana said many teachers might not be willing to work in a dangerous environment.
"It could have dire consequences in Arizona," he said. "My district said they're going to make sure they have hand sanitizer in every room, that we already have soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers."
Those precautions, but Quintana says, are likely not enough to convince teachers that it's safe to return to the classroom. Several school systems have already made plans to modify their school year and begin online instruction in August.