No COVID-Related Spike of Teacher Retirements in Mass. Before School Year

Depending on how many districts opted for in-person learning, some worried veteran educators would choose to step away from their jobs over COVID-19 health concerns

NBC Universal, Inc.

The beginning of the school year amid the coronavirus pandemic did not lead to the surge of teacher retirements some had feared.

That's according to figures the NBC10 Investigators obtained from the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System.

Those stats show the roughly 2,600 retirement applications were actually a little below the average of 2,800 retirements over the previous five years.

In August, the NBC10 Investigators spoke with Mike Gyra, an astronomy teacher at Barnstable High School for 31 years.

Gyra chose to step away from the job earlier than planned because of health concerns with his wife, a breast cancer survivor. The couple also cares for her 94-year-old father, a World War II veteran.

School leaders expressed concern there could be a rush of last-minute retirements and teachers' unions said they were getting a lot of inquiries about the topic as the school year approached.

Figures NBC10 Boston had reviewed indicated that as of January 2019, there were roughly 94,000 teachers in Massachusetts, and about one out of every five was eligible to retire with at least part of their pension because they have been in the classroom 20 years or longer.

About 5,000 teachers had at least 30 years of teaching experience, meaning some of those educators could qualify for a maximum pension, depending on how close they are to age 65.

But the wave of COVID-related retirements never materialized.

"The only difference we can possibly attribute to COVID is the increase in the number of late-filed applications," said Erika Glaster, the executive director of MTRS. "However, compared to the total population of teachers, it's a fraction of a percent."

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