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Arkansas educators say it will be difficult to social distance in classrooms

A new survey by the Arkansas Education Association says that 90% of educators said they are concerned about student health issues if they return to in-person school.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A new survey conducted by the Arkansas Education Association says that educators in the state are concerned about "the safety of returning to in-person learning in the fall."

In June, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that schools would return in August to a mix of in-person and online classes. But in early July, Hutchinson announced that the start date of school would be moved back to the week of August 24.

According to the survey, nearly 90% of educators said they are worried about student health issues and almost 98% said it would be difficult to implement social distancing and other safety measures in school buildings.

And over 40% of the people surveyed said they are either considering retiring early or leaving the profession entirely.

"While acknowledging the disruption and learning loss caused by the pandemic, and the importance of in-person instruction, most respondents believe schools should reopen only after public health experts determine it’s safe to return," the AEA said in a press release. "Educator input and adequate planning and equipment are also necessary to protect school employees, students and visitors from COVID-19."

The AEA said the reopening process for schools in the upcoming school year should be "based on science and safety."

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"Schools must not become places that increase that spread or endanger the lives of students, staff, or of our surrounding community," the AEA said.

AEA President Carol Fleming said that educators in Arkansas know their students, parents and communities best and that "they want to be a part in decision-making as we develop a safe, sustainable path forward.”

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