It’s only been about two months since schools reopened, but teachers say it feels like they’ve been back for far longer.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association has been regularly surveying its members since spring. October results show 87 per cent of teachers and school leaders were stressed, and 92 per cent were exhausted by the end of the day.
“Teachers are reporting that they’re ‘June tired’ at the end of September,” said ATA president Jason Schilling on Thursday.
He said stress levels have been consistently high among school staff and it makes him worry about the rest of the school year.
“What we’re seeing now is increasing COVID cases. That is also adding to the stress of teachers. We know from the science that community spread will find its way to schools.”
He said some class sizes are large, which prevents physical distancing, and creates even more stress.
The recent survey showed 72 per cent of teachers are concerned about contracting the virus over the winter, and 75 per cent were moderately to extremely concerned about the challenge of physical distancing in classrooms and hallways.
Schilling said teachers are spending a lot of time on cleaning protocols, which takes away from prep time and breaks.
When substitute teachers aren’t available while teachers are isolating, other teachers or administrators must cover classes, adding to their already busy workload.
“There’s a lot to do. There’s a big ask when you put health protocols into schools. Schools already are chronically underfunded.”
He said provincial funding should be provided to hire staff to help with supervision and cleaning. Another way to promote wellness among teachers and students is for school boards to look at ways to give them some extra days off around a statutory holiday, such as Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.
Alberta Education has allowed high school diploma exams to be optional this fall, but the government could decide now to make them optional in the spring to ease the pressure on students, Schilling said.
“School has definitely been difficult and challenging this year. There’s lots that can be done that doesn’t require a lot of disruption to a system that is already experiencing a lot of stress.”