Monroe’s teachers are ‘at their max right now’

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Board of Education meetings are held in the media center at Masuk High School.

MONROE, CT — Long hours, stress and anxiety are taking a toll on teachers in Monroe’s public schools, who have to prepare lesson plans for in-person and remote learning, then teach both, all while hoping they won’t catch COVID-19.

During a meeting on Monday, Nick Kapoor, a Board of Education member, expressed concerns over the physical health and mental well-being of faculty and staff at the town’s schools.

“I appreciate that Nick, absolutely it is [a concern],” Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza said. “I met with faculty on Friday and we had some really difficult conversations. There is genuinely fear and anxiety for sure. I talked to colleagues and it’s the same in just about every district. Teachers are maxed out right now.”

“I know people are working into the early morning hours in some cases,” Kobza continued. “There needs to be some kind of balance in their lives or we’re gonna lose people. We’re gonna lose good teachers.”

This comes at a time when the superintendent said the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to staffing shortages when staff members have to quarantine or stay home with their own children when their schools close.

“Joe, that’s what I’d like to echo,” said Jerry Stevens, a board member. “I’m not a medical doctor. I’m a retired teacher and I do understand it doesn’t affect the children a lot, but it is affecting that group of people that have to teach the children.”

Though the virus is not spreading inside Monroe’s schools, Stevens noted how the health impacts can be more serious for adults.

“I just need to keep the janitors, the bus drivers, the teachers, the cafeteria workers in mind,” he said. “Okay, so the children aren’t getting it as much. It’s bouncing off of them — I got it. But it’s that support staff that teaches them, feeds them, throws out the rock salt, it’s them that I’m worried about.”

Stevens said the school district must to play it safe with its decision making.

“And I think if we see that type of spread in the schools, it’s a very different conversation immediately,” Kobza said.

Aside from the anxiety, Dr. Alan Vaglivelo, a board member, said teaching children in the classroom and online simultaneously is almost like doing double duty.

“That alone is stressful,” he said. “Then you pile on the fact that we have a pandemic and teachers are under a lot of stress.”

“When you walk around the district and see teachers doing both, it’s taxing and it takes a toll,” Kobza agreed.

Vice Chairman George A. King, III, said his wife is a teacher, so he knows first-hand how their day does not end at three o’clock in the afternoon. He’s seen his wife work until 9 p.m. and on weekends. Now he said the pandemic makes teachers write two lesson plans per day, in-person and remote.

“It’s a 24-by-7 cycle now,” King said. “I completely understand, to Nick’s point, the concern for the well being of the staff and making sure their heads are in the right place and we’re supporting them as much as possible, and trying to make it as streamlined as possible going forward.”

“Is there anything we can do to help our staff — all of them?” David Ferris, a board member asked.

Kobza suggested some additional half days, but said the district has to be careful about adding to the teacher year. “We have to be creative,” he said. “I know the teachers are struggling. They’re struggling all over.”

Kapoor clarified that, while he is concerned over the teachers, he did not mean to infer that the administration was not keeping their concerns at the forefront.

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