A new survey by the state's largest teacher's union, the Connecticut Education Association, found that more than a third of public school teachers in Connecticut are considering leaving the profession.
Some teaches said school safety measures are inconsistently followed and pandemic protocols are still not being put into practice in all school districts.
The CEA said a mass exodus of teachers from the profession could be on the horizon.
“What we’re seeing is people saying 'I can’t sustain this level of stress,'” said Kate Dias, a longtime math teacher at Manchester High School before becoming president of the Connecticut Education Association.
In fact, 38% of the teachers surveyed said they are considering leaving the profession.
“Thirty-eight percent would devastate our education system in Connecticut,” Donald Williams, the executive director of the CEA.
Manchester lost 25 teachers at the end of the school year. The superintendent said that’s 10 teachers more than usual.
“It’s definitely been a challenging hiring season. Fortunately, we’ve found replacements but that has not been easy,” said Matt Geary.
A thousand public school teachers across the state were asked about their top Covid-19 concerns. Respondents said their districts are falling short in several areas, including proper ventilation, social distancing, and regular testing of unvaccinated teachers and students.
“We know that testing is a system that helps prevent the spread so I think regular testing off all groups should be made available,” said Joclyn Delancey, who taught fifth grade in Darien last school year, before becoming vice-president of the CEA.
Leticia Amoahdadzie’s four children go to school in Hartford. Like the union, she also believes that the state should mandate weekly testing for all students who are unvaccinated.
“Because Covid is taking lives,” she said.
Ninety-seven percent of the teachers who completed this survey said they feel that improving air quality in schools is a critical concern. However, only 27% said they feel that their districts are doing something about it.
“If it’s not safe for teachers, it’s definitely not safe for the children,” said Betsy Ruiz, who has a child in Manchester Public Schools.
“We know that if we don’t have proper ventilation, we don’t have proper systems we can be contributing to the spread of the virus and I think that’s a real strong concern,” said Dias.
Air quality in schools, particularly on hot days, is not a new concern.
“We had schools that had to close because of the heat, which brings in more inconsistency and less security for knowing what is my learning day going to look like and for parents as well,” said Delancey.
The union said improving the air quality in schools has never been more crucial.
“Having the air filtration systems to block the spread of Covid is very important,” Williams said.
“Even if you had the funds to air condition some of these older schools power to the building is potentially a problem. You can’t just keep adding air conditioners without adding power,” Geary pointed out.
He said 60% of his district’s schools have air conditioning and three more will come online in the next three years.
The union wants the state to recommend that districts use federal education funds to put air conditioners in all school buildings. It's also pushing lawmakers to mandate better air quality standards. Connecticut is set to receive over a billion dollars from the feds.
“At this point it’s beyond the dollars. It’s how much work, can you get the work done, when can you get the work done,” Geary said.
Dias, who praised her district’s overall handling of Covid-19 and said Manchester should serve as a model for other districts, said the concerns brought up in the survey are as much about the students as they are the teachers.
“Almost 90% of our teachers are vaccinated so they may not even be concerned about this for themselves. They’re really looking at this as a strong problem for our students,” she said.
NBC Connecticut reached out to the State Department of Education but has not received a response.