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Woodlawn teachers share anxiety and fears about heading back to school next year

KGW caught up with some Woodlawn educators to talk about returning to school next year and their concerns about any form of in-person classes.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Woodlawn educators have shared a lot with KGW viewers over the 2019-2020 school year. 

KGW investigative reporter Cristin Severance and photojournalists Gene Cotton and Kurt Austin were given remarkable access to the staff and students at Woodlawn Elementary School in Northeast Portland.

The award-winning series has delved into race, gentrification and how the school has handled the pandemic.

KGW caught up with some Woodlawn educators to talk about returning to school this year.

Portland Public Schools will start the year virtually, but it could return to some form of in-person classes after the beginning of November.

First-grade teacher Lionel Clegg said he worries going back to in-person classes with all the restrictions would change the way he connects with students.

“I'm a hands-on teacher. I'm kind of right there with you. I'm going to be teaching from behind a shield for the most part. And I'm going to be cautious about my distance between each other. So, it really concerns me that I won't be able to be the teacher that I normally am,” said Clegg.

Anthony Lowery, one of the other first grade teachers at Woodlawn, said in-person school even a couple of days a week worries him.

“It's almost like teaching in fear almost. It's like, you have to very careful,” said Lowery.

Fourth-grade teacher Jai Blair worries about some of the subject matter he’ll have to address virtually.

“Now with all these protests and history and everything coming out, as a fourth-grade teacher, I'm supposed to teach Oregon history. And so do I do that all virtually for a fourth-grade student, is that completely appropriate,” wondered Blair.

These Woodlawn educators will be featured on the NBC News Facebook page Thursday as part of the network’s Education week. NBC has 10 million followers on their page.

Cristin Severance and Gene Cotton are working on a 30-minute special “Inside Woodlawn: No time to waste” where they talk to Woodlawn educators about race in education, black lives matter and the call for racial equality happening across the county.

“Inside Woodlawn: No time to waste” will air Friday, August 28 at 7 p.m.

WATCH: See the full Inside Woodlawn series