KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Teaching is a demanding job, and that's before the challenges of virtual learning and social distancing are added to the equation.
The stress on teachers was just one of the topics that came up Thursday in Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly's webinar discussion with educators from around the state. The 41 Action News Investigative Team asked the governor if teacher retention is a concern amid the pandemic.
"I do think we will see some teachers leaving out of concerns for their own health," Kelly said. "They're close to retirement anyway and might have some underlying conditions and really don't feel it's safe for them and their families to come back into the classroom."
Both Kelly and Kansas state Sen. Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, said increasing compensation will be key to future teacher retention.
The good news is that according to some of the Kansas City metro's largest school districts, educators leaving because of COVID-19 does not appear to be a problem at this point.
A spokeswoman for Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools said its retention rate is around 83%. In fact, fewer teachers resigned at the end of this last school year than the year before. Very few cited COVID-19 as the reason.
A spokesman for the Shawnee Mission School District said the exact retention rate is not yet known, since teachers are just now telling the administration if they want to teach in-person or remotely. However, retirements in June were within normal ranges.
Retirements were also comparable to those of previous years in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District.
During the 41 Action News Safely Back to School Town Hall, both the Center and Olathe school districts said teacher retention rates remain stable.
Meanwhile, the president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers praised Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools for listening to educators who are high risk.
"The district has been very good at working with those teachers, making accommodations so they can stay virtual if and when we go back to school," Andrea Flinders said.
At the end of the day, in-person learning depends on staff being comfortable returning to the building.
"It will be the impact on adults that will probably dictate the format of what education looks like as much as anything else," Olathe Public Schools Superintendent John Allison said.