FARGO — Educators across North Dakota, many of whom are considering leaving the profession, are strongly urging mask mandates and other measures to take on the coronavirus pandemic in their communities, according to a survey released Thursday, Nov. 12.
"Personal responsibility has failed," said Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United. The organization that helped conduct the survey represents 11,500 K-12 teachers, paraprofessionals, university faculty and state, city and county workers.
"I know people are COVID weary, but we need to do something more," he said, adding 80% of the educators surveyed support the view that state leaders need to do just that.
According to the survey, 67% of educators said Gov. Doug Burgum hasn't done enough, while 60% said the same about State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and the Department of Public Instruction.
The survey was limited to educators, with the 756 respondents representing all parts of the state and age groups almost equally. There was an equal balance between rural and city dwellers and members who identify with the Democratic and Republican parties.
The survey had a larger sampling from the western part of the state, known more for its conservative views.
So what do the educators and organization suggest be done?
Besides mask mandates in all communities, Archuleta said the state should offer weekly rapid testing of school staff, limit gatherings to fewer people and close bars earlier.
He said students can't be tested because of privacy and the need for parental permission.
Of those surveyed, 95% said their school had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The number of educators who think schools should go all-virtual has increased from 18% in September to 26% last month, with hybrid learning the top choice at 37%. The number who favor face-to-face learning has dropped from 41% to 35%.
The survey found only 2% of districts were using all-virtual learning models in October.
Archuleta said what is so striking to him is that educators overwhelmingly believe they need the help of the community and almost all were worried about their health and that of their families, fellow employees, students and families of their students.
"We can't solve this on our own. We need to all be doing our part, or we are only going to see it get worse," he said.
The number of educators who favor a mask mandate in their communities sits at 80%, including 78% of Republicans.
The number is even higher for mask mandates in classrooms, where the number increased from 73% in September to 86% in late October. The survey found 81% of Republican educators favored the classroom mandate.
The survey found support for mask mandates grew substantially on the western side of the state, where it lagged behind easterners in two earlier monthly surveys.
The pandemic could also lead to a shortage of staffing, as only 27% of educators in the survey said they didn't consider retiring or leaving the profession.
Thirty percent said they were actively considering leaving the profession, while 24% said they considered retiring or leaving but will stay.
The highest number of educators saying they might leave were in the younger age groups, below age 39.
If a vaccine is available in the coming year, Archuleta said he believes the number who would stay will go up substantially. In the meantime, he said, finding substitutes for teachers or bus drivers in quarantine is a statewide problem.
Archuleta said the survey of 756 members by DFM Research of St. Paul was a high number for any survey. Typically, a presidential poll has only about 400 respondents.
"We have confidence in the results," he said.