Parent: Mask enforcement causing teacher stress

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A parent and former elementary school teacher told Ridgway School Board members last week she is concerned about the stress teachers are feeling in enforcing social-distancing and mask-wearing protocols.

Katie Graves addressed the board during a work session on Sept. 10 in an effort to serve as the middle ground between teachers and the board.

As a former elementary teacher, Graves said she personally knew how hard teaching can be under normal circumstances, and she said she had “nothing but respect for the teachers and the administration and how hard everybody is working right now.”

“I have gotten close particularly with one elementary school teacher who has said to me that the circumstances of social distancing and mask wearing for elementary school students has become almost unbearable to the point where she said a couple of elementary teachers are considering their jobs, considering walking away,” Graves said.

Graves said she wanted to bring this issue to the board’s attention in a non-biased and non-political way to make sure teachers are retained for the entire school year.

She suggested an anonymous survey of teachers on the divisive and controversial topic of mask-wearing.

“According to CDC guidelines, children under 10 are not mandated to wear masks and yet at Ridgway School they are,” Graves said. “It is such a controversial issue, and no one wants to be controversial. They just want to do their jobs. I think they (teachers) are just struggling with why they have to force the kids to wear their masks while in their cohort… why children have to maintain 6 feet, and children have to wear masks.”

She added that students cannot hear each other through masks, leading to “a little bit of tension growing between students.”

Graves said she was “just being the middle ground person,” but hoped the board would “continue the conversation so we don’t lose teachers in frustration.”

No board members replied to Graves’ comments, but Superintendent Susan Lacy said there would be more surveys sent to teachers in a couple weeks.

“All of this is kind of personal and it is hard sometimes to share without feeling like you are deviating from what might be expected,” Lacy said.

Later in the meeting, board member Aimee Quadri asked Lacy if there was any stress with the week’s inclement weather bringing classes, including physical education, back indoors. Students were required to wear masks while running during indoor PE.

Lacy said she did not observe any stress and she thought the weather was a good test of the system the school had in place.

Meanwhile, middle school teacher Jane Wilson told the Plaindealer she has requested a leave of unpaid absence for the school year due to the health conditions of a family member. Staff has been rearranged to accommodate her classes. Wilson had expressed concerns with safety and indoor learning at an Aug. 13 board meeting. Reached by phone Tuesday, she said she hopes to return to teaching at the school next year.