Giving Compass' Take:

• School superintendents have to consider the safety of their high-risk faculty and having enough personal protection equipment, amid other concerns when thinking about re-opening schools. 

• Why is it important to consider not only students' academics but educators' health and safety? What can philanthropists do to support educators and schools during this time? 

• Read more about pressure for schools to re-open effectively and safely. 

Special education teacher Pamela Mele finished breast cancer treatments a year ago. Since then, the New York educactor has been hospitalized twice for noncoronavirus illnesses and is considered high-risk for COVID-19.

She’s not alone.

From the onset of the pandemic, people who had chronic medical conditions, also including diabetes, lung disease and heart disease, faced increased instances of being hospitalized with COIVD-19 and put into intensive care, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And, according to an American Enterprise Institute report, educators in the coronavirus vulnerable age range of 65 years or older include over 18% of public and private school teachers and 27% of all principals. For private schools specifically, 25% of teachers and 44% of principals are a vulnerable age.

Mele is worried about returning to in-person instruction at the 600-student urban school district where she works in New York’s Capital Region. Special education teachers work in close proximity to student-often should to shoulder.

“I can’t imagine how we’re going to spread out students and staff. We don’t have enough space for all our classes sometimes, let alone walking through the halls,” she said. “I also work with kids who flip out and walk out of class for no reason. I can’t imagine getting them to wear masks.”

Mele said she and some of her peers are willing to return to the classroom if their school implements specific safety protocols. An American Federation of Teachers (AFT) poll conducted in June showed 76% of nearly 1,200 K-12 educators, paraprofessionals and higher education faculty and staff surveyed feel comfortable going back to school if certain safety procedures are met.

Superintendents and principals have a lot to consider. High-risk teachers and staff or those caring for vulnerable loved ones are part of an ever-growing list of concerns. Providing access to personal protection equipment (PPE) is a priority for many adminstrators.

Read the full article about considerations of high-risk teachers and staff by Katie Navarra at Education Dive.