Survey: Connecticut teachers say school ventilation is top concern

Sep. 10—A recent survey of state educators shows that 97% of teachers say improved ventilation is a top concern while only 27% say it's being implemented in their schools, according to data released Friday by the Connecticut Education Association.

Representatives from the CEA met outside Manchester High School on Friday to highlight some of the findings of the organization's Back-to-School Survey. The survey was taken by 955 educators between Aug. 20-25.

"What resulted is a very solid and reliable cross-section of information about teachers in the state of Connecticut," CEA President Kate Dias said.

Dias, a former Manchester teacher, said the top concern among educators surveyed is improved ventilation in school buildings. About 47% of educators said their schools' ventilation system was not providing enough protection from COVID-19 for them to feel safe working in-person, while 27% said they did feel safe, and 25% said they were unsure.

"We see a disconnect between a priority — a real considerable working condition — and whether or not people feel it's being responded to," Dias said.

Dias highlighted Manchester a one municipality that has made a commitment to improving school facilities through bond referendums, but said more needs to be done statewide in general.

Joslyn DeLancey, vice president of the Connecticut Education Association, stressed the importance of investing in school buildings because "your teachers' working conditions are your students' learning conditions."

CEA Executive Director Donald Williams said that ventilation in school buildings was an important concern before the pandemic, and that's only increased over the last year-plus.

He highlighted legislation the General Assembly passed regarding temperature and ventilation standards for pet shops.

"We don't have any similar regulation or requirements to protect students, teachers, and staff in our schools," Williams said. "As a result we see the extreme high temperatures, we see the high humidity, the mold, the asthma cases, the respiratory problems."

Williams called on state officials to take legislative measures to help enforce health and safety protections in schools. He highlighted the $1.1 billion the state has received for education-related federal COVID aid as a way of paying for such projects.

"We're here today to ask that the governor and the officials in the state Department of Education heed the information in this survey and what teachers have pointed out in terms of the essential need to provide that basic human right, which is quality air to breathe," Williams said. "It's time that we're as humane to our school children and the staff that work in our schools as we are to animals in pet stores."

Further, 80% of educators surveyed said they are much more stressed at work than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That didn't necessarily surprise us during a pandemic," Dias said. "But I think it was a little disappointing to see that people are coming back into this school year still at an elevated stress level."

Teacher retention also could be an issue following COVID-19, according to data from the survey. Thirty-eight percent of teachers surveyed said the pandemic has made them more likely to retire or leave the profession.

While that's not a majority, Dias said it is concerning.

"Thirty percent of our membership is roughly 16,000 teachers. That's a lot of people to talk about vacating their profession early," Dias said. "We can't afford to have 38 percent of our educators leave the profession, so we have to figure out what is causing that and how to meet the needs of teachers."

For updates on Manchester and Bolton, follow Skyler Frazer on Twitter: @SkyFraCT, Facebook: SkyFraCT, and Instagram: SkylerFrazerJI to stay updated on his latest articles.