NY teacher retirements skyrocket due to COVID pandemic

Hundreds of teachers from across New York are retiring at alarming rates due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After more than thirty years of teaching, Donna Fleischman says she decided to retire on September 1st because of COVID-19.

”I was sad to leave, but I felt it was the right time,” she says.

The New York City pre-kindergarten teacher even got a medical accommodation to work from home, but felt it wouldn’t be the same.

“It just wasn’t the right way that I ever dreamed of ending my career,” Fleischman adds.

Danette Lipten retired in June, only a few months after schools shut their doors indefinitely due to the pandemic.

“I’m grateful, very grateful, that I was able to do this when I was able to do it. It was kind of like the stars aligned,” Lipten explains.

As classes finally resume for in-person and blended learning, more and more educators are making the difficult decision not to come back.

According to records from the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, the number of people filing for retirement more than doubled from 259 in August 2019 to 580 in August 2020.

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Some people, like Fleischman, cited obvious safety concerns.

“I just wasn’t comfortable going into a building wearing a mask all day. I wasn’t sure about the ventilation systems in the school,” she says.

Others, like Lipten, say they were overwhelmed by the shift to distance learning.

“They weren’t having hands-on experiences, doing a lot of worksheets and stuff, and you know, it wasn’t the way I wanted to teach,” Lipten adds.

Teacher retirements pose another challenge for school districts in the age of COVID-19: Potential staffing shortages.

“Not only do you have school teachers retiring and they have to fill those gaps, but there are obviously funding issues, issues with transportation, with remote learning,” David Albert, Chief of Communications for the New York State School Boards Association says.

The School Boards Association tells FOX 5 NY that districts will likely find it more difficult to fill the positions of teachers who work in specialized fields like foreign language or special education.