Virginia teachers’ union calls for schools to remain virtual for after district schedules return to campus

The union provided a list of safety recommendations to follow should the schools move forward with re-opening plans

A teachers’ union in Virginia is calling for a school district to reevaluate its plans for students and teachers to return to classrooms next month, saying that health data does not support the move.

In a virtual town hall this week, Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand laid out plans for a gradual resumption of in-person learning beginning on Nov. 16.

Chairs fill an empty classroom.  

Chairs fill an empty classroom.   (iStock)

Brabrand assured parents that the school district is following CDC guidelines to require face coverings, increase cleaning and disinfecting, as well as social distancing and hand washing, among other safety measures.

But the teachers’ union, the Fairfax Education Association, said resuming in-person learning will pose health risks to students, staff, and the community at large.

“[O]ur union feels very strongly that right now virtual learning is the safest way to provide some instructions for our community,” Carly Okouchi, VP of FEA, said in a statement provided to WUSA 9.

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A day after Brabrand’s virtual town hall, FEA sent a letter to FCSP calling for schools within the district to remain virtual for the 2020-21 school year.

“Science and Health Safety Data support and require that no one should return to in person instruction until there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment,” the letter read. “The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread.”

The letter included a list of five recommendations should “very limited return to buildings be attempted for high needs students and families.”

A mother of three who spoke to WUSA 9 said she supporter re-opening the schools, provided safety measures were adhered to.

“I just don’t think we’re ever going to have 14 days without community spread,” Jema Russo said. “Can we just try it? Can we just do our best for the teachers that want to go back and the students who want to go back?”

The push for reopening schools in Fairfax County mirrors nationwide trends as districts grapple whether allow in-person learning to continue or resume virtual learning.

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Research from Brown University released late last month showed that despite college campuses struggling with coronavirus outbreaks, the situation may be less severe for younger students and their teachers.