Nearly 40% of Grand Forks public school teachers who responded to a recent survey said they feel unsafe in schools because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Melissa Buchhop, president of the Grand Forks Education Association.

The membership survey was conducted last weekend by the GFEA, with responses due Monday, Nov. 9.

A total of 38.8% of the teachers responding to the survey described themselves as being in the bottom two categories, 1 or 2, in a five-point scale, ranging from 1 being “not safe” to 5 being “very safe.”

The 38.8% figure is nearly twice the percentage, 21%, reported by teachers who responded to a similar GFEA survey conducted about four weeks ago.

The percentage of those who reported feeling “safe” or “very safe” decreased from 45% to 34.8% from the earlier survey to the most recent survey, Buchhop said. Those who responded with a 3 rating fell from 32% to 27% in those surveys.

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Buchhop talked about the results of the recent survey and how teachers are coping with COVID challenges at Grand Forks School Board’s Monday, Nov. 9, meeting.

A total of 459 GFEA members, or 85% of its membership, responded to the recent survey, she said.

A total of 798 teachers work in the district, according to a Grand Forks Public Schools spokesperson.

“Many teachers are physically and mentally exhausted,” Buchhop said in an email to the Herald. “We are trying to juggle so many things.”

"(We are) following all the new guidelines, helping out our colleagues when they are out and there are no subs (substitute teachers), teaching hybrid, not getting to teach in our own classrooms, not having a prep (time) due to covering for (another) teacher," Buchhop said.

“The teachers and staff want to do what is best for our students, which is why we are trying to stay on top of everything, but, in that process, we are running ourselves into exhaustion,” Buchhop said. “As much as we would rather be face to face with our students, we realize that we can’t go on like this much longer.”

Shifting to online-only learning “will help relieve the stress and exhaustion of double teaching, students and staff in and out, and schools being stretched to the limit,” she said.

“It will also, however, bring different challenges to our teachers who will now have to try to keep their students engaged and in attendance in a digital environment -- something our full-time digital teachers have been challenged with from the first day of school," she said. “So going digital will be a stress relief for some teachers and an added stress to other teachers.”

Educators are concerned, too, about how online-only learning would affect their students, according to Buchhop, adding that when in-classroom students are out two weeks due to quarantining, they fall behind.