Alabama teachers keep dying from Covid-19, leaving behind grief and frustration inside schools

“Everybody’s getting tired and it’s kind of like now everybody wants everything to be back to normal and you know I have had members reach out to me and say it’s like no one‘s taking this seriously anymore,” Alabama Education Association Beverly Sims said Monday.

Posted: Sep 20, 2021 4:33 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2021 6:59 PM

Just how much more can teachers take?

According to Alabama Education Association, patience is wearing thin as educators face tough choices: Keep teaching inside classrooms and risk catching Covid-19 or leave the profession they love.

The blunt assessment coming Monday from a Madison County AEA official on how teachers are doing as they navigate a patchwork of mask rules, sick kids, and colleagues dying.

“Everybody’s getting tired and it’s kind of like now everybody wants everything to be back to normal, and you know I have had members reach out to me and say it’s like no one‘s taking this seriously anymore,” Alabama Education Association Beverly Sims said Monday.

To-date 65 educators have died from Covid during this pandemic in Alabama.

One of those victims, a beloved teacher named Kattie Brocato. She taught 3rd grade at Lynn Fanning Elementary School in the Madison County School System.

Sims says teachers are not being protected from this virus in some schools, even though they are the ones inside these classrooms putting their own safety on the line.

“Our education employees want to be considered on a decision as far as their health. We have got all these parents jumping up and down saying my mask my child without any consideration to the fact that our educators are being exposed,” Sims said.

It’s not clear how many of the teachers caught Covid while at work, but teachers are dying since they’ve been forced back into classroom in schools where some are not forcing masking mandates, social distancing and not following extra cleaning recommendations from state health leaders, according to Sims.

“I predict we are going to see you in a more of a mass exodus the end of this year than we did last year because I just see so many people leaving, we’re gonna be lucky to have enough employees to even have school in Madison City and in Madison County (school districts,)” Sims added.

“You are getting superintendents having a lot of pressure put on them by parents who are making this political, and because they are hostile about it they are speaking up and they are going to be the loudest voices,” Sims says.

“I’ve had some people tell me they would like to go to the board meeting and speak in favor of masks, but they are afraid because some of these people are so hostile about kids wearing masks they are making threats.”

Impacts on Kids

The teachers who have died from Covid-19 leave behind classrooms full of grief for their students to navigate.

On the front lines, mental health care professionals are responding to classrooms, helping kids talk through the extreme losses they are seeing.

“Teachers are the people who have our kids more than anybody else most of the day, even more than we see our own kids so when anybody in their school setting is no longer there to them when someone dies they have lost a huge part of their support system,” National Children's Advocacy Center Clinical Director Erica Hochberger told WAAY 31 Monday.

Hochberger says it is not just the amount of death and suffering children are burdened with right now, it’s not having an end in sight.

“It is different from a tornado, for example, where it comes through and it wreaks havoc, all this destruction, and then it’s gone. And ongoing illness, the nature of the pandemic, means that nobody has been able to put that fear away.”

Councilors working through this fear with kids everyday, with compassion and a reminder to adults to not overlook what young people are experiencing too.

“We are telling these kids, the adults around you they might be really sad a lot of the time for a long time, and that’s normal and that’s how adults grieve and that’s a little different than how kids grieve.”

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