Some Teachers Reluctant to Return

Pandemic Pushes Some to Take Leaves of Absence


Courtesy of FCPS

An FCPS employee prepares for socially distanced in-person school

Erik Judy, News Editor

Desks clumped together, students crowded in the doorway, sheets of paper passed back and forth across the classroom: the typical schoolroom is compact and alive with activity. Many teachers fear that upon a return to school, no restrictions can create an environment truly safe from disease transmission, and have decided to take leaves of absence.

Some teachers such as physics teacher Jared Gillis have a more optimistic view towards the pandemic situation. “I coach track, and at Edison a girl got covid, but because she was wearing a mask, it wasn’t spread to the rest of the team,” said Mr. Gillis. “I’ve seen the effectiveness first-hand, so I think if everyone follows the rules, we should be safe.” In addition, Gillis has received both doses of the vaccine, so a feeling of security comes easier. 

For several teachers though, such as government teacher Jordan Hales, returning is less of a choice and more of a necessity. “I am a point of contact for family members that are at high risk due to medical conditions,” said Ms. Hales. “But I need the income so I decided to not take a leave.” 

Another worrying element for teachers has been inconsistent messaging from the school board on how to return. “The back and forth on decisions has led me to not feel as much of a sense of security,” said Ms. Hales. “I’m really conflicted because I love teaching, but I love teaching when I can interact with students, and as much as I want learning to be back in the building, I want it to be safe for everybody.” 

Similar to teachers, students have mixed opinions about teachers coming back to school. “I think that teachers should only be allowed to return if they have been given the vaccine,” said Rohith Venkatasen (12). 

However, some students feel that teachers should return as soon as possible. “The quality of education has significantly decreased online,” said Nico Vacca (12). “I am excited for teachers to return to in-person.”

The tension surrounding teachers’ return to school has put much pressure on administrators and county officials, who face critical choices in the coming weeks and months.

“I do not envy anybody in a position of power right now because they are making decisions that could be life or death for people depending on the severity of the pandemic,” said Ms. Hales.