Teachers uncomfortable with conditions caused by coronavirus pandemic are retiring early or taking a leave of absence

Cooper Holmberg, Opinions Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has created last minute staffing issues throughout Naperville District 203. Several  teachers and staff members have announced early or unexpected retirements due to the pandemic or have applied to take a leave of absence from their positions. 

Naperville Central experienced at least two COVID-19-related retirements, according to assistant principal Carrie McFadden. 

“One of our attendance specialists announced her retirement in the beginning of July and one teacher retired a few days before the start of school,” McFadden said.

Despite having only two retirements, it is possible that COVID-19 became a deciding factor for other staff members who were previously considering their retirements. 

“Our attendance person, [Debra Weir], had been thinking about retiring for a long time so she could spend more time with her grandkids, but she wondered how it would be at home every day,” McFadden said. “After being home from mid-March through the end of the year, she realized it was nice to be home.” 

Other teachers and staff who might not have been planning to retire changed their minds because of the pandemic.  Science teacher Flint Collier retired unexpectedly two days before classes began. Collier’s retirement created some minor staffing issues that had to be resolved before the school year started. McFadden explained that in this particular case, several teachers in the science department split the work of teaching Collier’s assigned classes while the formal process of hiring a new and permanent teacher was taking place. 

From the start of June until Sept. 21 there were 38 resignations and retirements district wide. But, the number of retirements can fluctuate widely from one year to the next. For example, during the same period last year and before the pandemic began, there were 88 district retirements.  

Naperville North principal Jay Watchel illustrated how this variance can occur from year to year in a single building. 

“We have had in excess of 20 and as few as low single digits,” Watchel said. 

Although COVID-19 has caused retirements, it is unclear just how many can be attributed to the pandemic, as reasons for retirement are confidential human resources issues. What is more certain is that impending leaves of absence will be related in some way to the pandemic, as several teachers are now choosing to put their careers on hold either because they cannot agree to the working conditions required by District 203 or because conditions in their home and family lives demand it At this time, Central Times has confirmed at least three Naperville Central teachers who are about to leave their classrooms.