Here are 5 words school staff used to describe fall 2020

Ongoing survey of teachers and other school staff seeks to gauge long-term impacts of COVID experience
By: | March 10, 2021
University of KentuckyUniversity of Kentucky

“Anxious,” “overwhelmed,” “stress,” “tired” and “worry” were the five words teachers and other school staff used to best describe fall 2020, according to an ongoing University of Kentucky study

The vast majority of the 10,000 school staff members surveyed—more than 70%—also said that “difficulties were piling up so high that [they] could not handle them.”

A key goal of the study is to investigate how the impacts of COVID might outlast the pandemic, said the survey’s creator, professor Erin Haynes, chair of the university’s Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health.

“Early this fall, a schoolteacher friend called me and told me that the anxiety she experienced was so significant that many days this fall, she felt like quitting,” Haynes said.


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A majority of the respondents to the national survey so far have been school staff from Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

The survey also revealed more symptoms of anxiety and depression among teachers who taught both online and in-person, compared to educators who only taught one or the other.

Teachers also reported that though they are being asked to sanitize their classroom between each class, they haven’t trained properly to use the chemicals involved.

“This survey provided a confidential forum for school staff to be able to say ‘This is what’s happening to me,’ and I don’t think they have anywhere else to voice it,” said Heather Bush, a professor of biostatistics in the university’s College of Public Health, who helped develop the survey.

“For a survey that just was sent via email, I would have expected maybe a couple of responses,” Bush added. “So after two or three days when we hit 7,000, we were shocked – this kind of immediate response to a survey is like any other we have launched.”


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Haynes and Bush said they want to help school decision-makers understand how the spread of COVID was slowed by mitigation strategies such as online teaching,  wearing masks, adjusting hallway flow and use of disinfectants

“We are also measuring the unintended consequences these strategies have had on mental and physical health of school staff,” Haynes said.

The survey is still open for school staff to share their experiences at https://bit.ly/WellSchool.