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Coronavirus pandemic could worsen Arizona’s teacher shortage

(Getty Images/Daniel Pockett)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s teacher shortage could worsen due to some teachers being afraid to return to their classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the past five to six years, Arizona has had a severe teacher shortage,” Justin Wing, data analyst chair for the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“I don’t anticipate that to change going into this school year.”

Instead, Wing fears it could lead to more teacher vacancies.

His group surveys school districts and charter schools in Arizona every August and December. The latest survey in January found the state still had nearly a quarter of its teaching positions unfilled halfway through the school year.

“One of the unknowns … is how many staff members are going to be returning to work at the beginning of the school year?” Wing said.

He added a few teachers have already reached out expressing concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 in schools.

A recent survey by Expect More Arizona found 18 percent of teachers were still undecided about whether or not they would return to their classrooms.

Judy Robbins, who has been teaching for 34 years, is among the educators who haven’t decided. She’s a special education itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing at Mesa Public Schools.

“I am one of those teachers nearing retirement and of the age that is at higher risk for the coronavirus,” she said. “I also have comorbidity issues that I need to consider.”

Robbins has thought about retiring because she’s fearful of contracting the coronavirus. But she said doing so would make her feel “like I’m letting down my school, my community and myself as an educator.”

At the same time, she said she’s not ruling out the possibility if she feels coerced into returning prematurely or if the threat to her health and life are too great.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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