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Metro Atlanta teachers push back, address COVID concerns ahead of uncertain fall semester

Coronavirus concerns have some teachers feeling like they're choosing between their career and their health.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — As Gov. Kemp continues to urge that schools reopen classrooms for the upcoming school year, teachers are taking a stand pushing back.

11Alive spoke with teachers in two metro Atlanta school districts who are questioning whether or not going back into the building is a safe bet for educators - or their students.

The teachers said they feel that returning to the classroom just isn't a good option right now and that it could down to life or death.

"I couldn't put my health or the health of my friends and family up in the air like that," said educator Chantae Pittman.

Pittman is a chorus teacher in Cobb County. Schools there will be starting out virtually. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, one-in-four teachers is at a greater risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19.

"Especially my teachers who are close to retirement, they are considering retiring early if their counties decide to go back,” Pittman said. “I know a lot of people who have been buying life insurance policies, creating their wills."

Justin Johnson teaches in Dekalb County and said he’s thankful they're also starting the school year with virtual learning.

"Educators, in particular, should not have to choose between livelihood and their lives,” Johnson said.

One concern among educators is that even though children only make up seven percent of COVID cases is that they could still be carriers - potentially infecting teachers or family members in high-risk categories that require hospital care.

Johnson said it would take a sharp decrease in cases for him to feel comfortable returning to the classroom.

“Just as educators, we are told to have data-driven instruction. I want data-driven decisions," he said.

In the meantime, educators continue getting ready to teach from home.

"I have been prepping myself to deliver the best online content that I can,” Pittman said. “Just because we aren't face-to-face, doesn't mean that we can't continue to make music."

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