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'We are actively being attacked' | Cobb County teachers consider breaking contracts amid COVID-19 concerns

Last week the district decided to stop contact tracing. 11Alive spoke to two teachers anonymously, who say educators had no input in this decision.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Several Cobb County teachers say they're considering breaking their contracts after a tough year of teaching during the pandemic. Two teachers spoke anonymously to 11Alive.

They say they are burnt out, but what is frustrating them most is when the district makes decisions without their input.

Just last week, the district ended contact tracing. Even school board member Dr. Jaha Howard said that decision came as a surprise to him.

We will identify the teachers as Teacher 1 and Teacher 2.

"We are actively being attacked," said Teacher 1. "A teacher would put their life on the line to save a child, but the message is clear that our lives just don't matter."  

Both teachers are trying to balance keeping the job they love, while staying safe.

"Now with the lack of contact tracing, I am absolutely terrified," said Teacher 2. "I am honestly more scared than I have ever been in this pandemic. We have had absolutely no say in this. We have not been consulted."

Both say they found out the district will no longer be contact tracing through an email sent out a few hours after Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced it to the board before adjourning from their January 6 meeting.

RELATED: Cobb schools discontinue contact tracing after state updates COVID guidelines

"Contact tracing has been probably the biggest lift on staff resources," Ragsdale said during the meeting.

Each one says no input was given from those this affects first-hand.

"We are in crisis... the children are in crisis," added Teacher 1. "We are being asked to do more with even less resources than ever. There's this increasing workload due to the amount of teachers who are out sick, so trying to cover their classrooms, not only do we not feel supported, but we actually feel under attack."

That lack of support is why they say they've looked into breaking their teaching contract with the district. But, that can get complicated.

"If I had the means I would probably quit my job," said Teacher 2. "As much as I love doing this, I would probably quit because my spouse and I are high-risk. Neither one of us can afford to get COVID. But my husband works retail and so I don't have that choice. I'm the one who carries our insurance. So this it's a very scary time to be a teacher right now." 

They say breaking a contract mid-year can cost thousands of dollars, can get you blacklisted from working for the district at any capacity, or even risk losing their certification.

RELATED: Physician pushes back against decision to relax contact tracing in Georgia schools

"It would be life changing... it would be life altering if we were to pull that trigger and do it," added Teacher 2.

The Cobb County superintendent made the decision to end school contact tracing last week after Governor Brian Kemp changed guidelines for schools.

"In my school, I know of five people who are not of retirement age who are seriously - if not already - transitioning out of the career," said Teacher 1. "Then another about five who are retiring, maybe one or two of them are actually at retirement age and other people are taking early retirement. This is not conceptual. This is concrete. We can't afford to lose one. But we will... we will."

School board member Dr. Jaha Howard said last week he was not made aware of the change, until the meeting, and was caught off guard. The teachers felt that same way.

"This year is actually shaping up to be actually more difficult than last year," added Teacher 1. "Were we shocked? Absolutely not. That would indicate that we expected something different. There are a lot of discussions, a lot of posts on social media, a lot of discussions amongst teachers, asking about how many years the teacher is required to put in to be eligible for partial retirement payments."

Teacher 1 also cites mental and physical health issues that teaching has brought for them this past year. Teacher 2 agrees.

"Y'all are telling us we're essential workers," she said. "I appreciate that. Because up until this point, we have not been deemed essential. But we're only essential when it's convenient for you. And that hurts."

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