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Local teacher was willing to retire before stepping foot in a classroom this fall


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Kristin Barrus attending a football game of student Dason Duke. | Courtesy Kristin Barrus

BLACKFOOT — COVID-19 isn’t just affecting students and what their upcoming school plans will look like. Teachers are taking a hit too.

For 59-year-old Kristin Barrus the pandemic looked like it might be the end of her 30-year career. Barrus lives in Blackfoot and teaches at Blackfoot Heritage Sixth Grade School. She’s dedicated her life to helping children learn and grow, but she also has health problems, including Type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure. While most people recover from COVID-19 with no problems, people with preexisting conditions are more susceptible to the virus.

As the pandemic continued, she decided she didn’t want to take the chance of being in a traditional school-setting and possibly catching COVID-19 from a student or coworker.

“As I contemplated this whole thing, I realized that education as we know, it’s gone. The education system right now is gone. And we’re really at risk as teachers. I wasn’t sure if that was a risk I was willing to take,” she said. “I was hit with a real feeling that teachers were expendable and it left me feeling pretty vulnerable.”

Thankfully, she was able to find a compromise in online education, which will allow her to continue doing the job she loves while being safe. But she knows, not every teacher will get that chance.

Kristin Barrus attending a Fort Hall Warriors football game to watch students play. | Courtesy Kristin Barrus

Originally, Barrus turned her retirement paperwork in because she was up against a deadline, but at the time, she hadn’t completely made her mind up about walking away. It wasn’t until she learned how the district would be handling the upcoming school year, that she thought maybe she might get another chance.

The district approached her about teaching on the internet. In her new role, she will lessen her chances of exposure to the virus. She said the retirement system is flexible enough at this point in time that she can rescind her retirement paperwork.

“That’s great for me, but I’m worried for the other teachers who don’t have that opportunity,” she said about her new position. “I had that option (to leave) because I was at retirement age, but there are many teachers who are really frightened and really concerned. It’s just a big unknown.”

Kristin Barrus with some student-athletes that she taught in fastpitch softball. | Courtesy Kristin Barrus

Barrus said during a time like this, everybody needs to work together, set aside politics and focus on what matters.

“This needs to be about kids and it needs to be about the people who are serving your children, who love your kids and want to keep them safe,” Barrus said.

She says its critical people are driven by science when making crucial decisions in regards to the virus.

“These are remarkable times that we’re living in, and we’re really influenced by the politics of the day,” she said. “(Education) is a partnership between parents, children, teachers and districts (and) as we listen to the science to keep everybody safe, we can do our job to get their kids educated.”

Barrus hopes to return to teaching in a classroom next school year if it’s a healthy situation.