Principals worry about keeping students and staff healthy

Principals concerned about social distancing, masks and safety supplies
By: | July 9, 2020
Just over a third of principals reported feeling confident about preserving the health of staff and students as schools physically reopen, a survey has found. (GettyImages/Maskot)Just over a third of principals reported feeling confident about preserving the health of staff and students as schools physically reopen, a survey has found. (GettyImages/Maskot)

Only a third of principals say they are confident students and adults can be kept healthy when schools reopen, a new survey has found.

With districts developing extensive new safety precautions, just 35.2% of principals reported feeling somewhat confident or extremely confident in “their school/district’s ability to preserve the health of staff and students as schools physically reopen in the fall,” the National Association of Secondary School Principals survey found.

“A principal’s primary and foundational duty is to keep students safe in school. Without that assurance, little real learning can take place,” NASSP Chief Executive Officer JoAnn Bartoletti said in a statement. “They are being asked unreasonably to bridge a chasm between the realities of face-to-face learning and the need to safeguard the people in their school.”

Principals said they were most concerned about having students maintain six feet of social distance in crowded classrooms that may be filled with recirculated air and/or lack windows.


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Building leaders also worried about whether all students will wear masks and avoid congregating. These issues were of particular concern among elementary school principals.

Principals also questioned if they would have enough substitutes to fill in for older and immunocompromised staff members. Finally, they wondered if they would be able to buy enough personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to create the safest possible environment.

The poll was administered July 7-8, just as the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that do not fully open in fall 2020.

Some principals also express dismay about the politicization of the COVID-19 outbreak. One respondent said they feared that district safety precautions will be seen as political statements and that conflict would arise with individuals who don’t recognize the severity of the outbreak.

“We encourage district leaders to create reopening plans in cooperation with their communities that prioritize the safety of students, educators, and all school stakeholders over political expediency,” Bartoletti said. “And we call on the CDC and Department of Education to provide more than their current vague guidance on reopening schools accompanied by the financial support to implement those guidelines.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.