FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A school district association in Fairfax County wants its local school district to go full virtual learning and expressed in a recent letter that it's important this be done now, not later, amid the rise in coronavirus cases nationwide.
The letter from the Fairfax Education Association was sent to Fairfax County Public Schools as Group 1 and Group 2 students of phased-in reopening have been allowed back in the classroom, and more are expected to be phased back into in-person learning.
"We are calling on the Superintendent to pull Group 3 out on day 1 of a 10% PCR rate; not wait for 7 days for the county and surrounding areas to show more positive cases. We remind him that the numbers now are exponentially higher compared to when he recommended a fully virtual start to school."
There are a variety of "Groups" that Fairfax County Public Schools has set up as part of phased-in learning for in-person classroom time. Some of the first students to be phased in are elementary school children, plus those with learning disabilities and ESL (English Second Language) students.
Leaders of education associations across Northern Virginia came together in November to urge Gov. Ralph Northam to dial back the state's reopening plans and to issue statewide guidance for schools on when it would be safe to return students to classrooms.
At the beginning of November, Fairfax County did delay some of its initial plans for phased-in reopening because of case spikes.
School districts across the DC, Maryland and Virginia area have faced tough times navigating between helping students that are struggling in the classroom, while also keeping the health of teachers a top priority.
Learn more about Fairfax County Public Schools' phased-in learning plan amid the COVID pandemic, click here.
Read the full letter from the Fairfax Education Association below
The Fairfax Education Association believes that our current data is trending upwards in a manner that has proven it is unsafe for staff and students to remain in-person in our school buildings. The number of cases in the community continues to rise, as does the number of cases in our schools.
The FEA remains concerned for those staff and students still attending in-person classes in our schools and believes that the metrics that are keeping them there are misleading. Groups 1 & 2 are positioned to remain in our buildings while the numbers increase across the area, regardless of the level of community and school spread. Group 3 must remain in the schools for 7 days after we reach a 10% PCR test positivity rate, even though we know the numbers are continuing to rise. This is irresponsible.
We are calling on the Superintendent to pull Group 3 out on day 1 of a 10% PCR rate; not wait for 7 days for the county and surrounding areas to show more positive cases. We remind him that the numbers now are exponentially higher compared to when he recommended a fully virtual start to school.
Fairfax County staff live all over this region and are potentially bringing the COVID-19 virus to school with them each day. We know that students carry this virus, often without any symptoms, and are silently spreading it in our schools.
An anonymous member of FEA states, “If the school board doesn't feel it's safe for them to meet in person, then it is not okay to send me into the classroom 4 days a week.” We agree.
FEA is concerned that we do not have information about the FCPS Safety Teams and which staff members compose them. We find it unacceptable that there is a published list of when and where these teams will be making their rounds, for safety audits which we believe should be unannounced.
These percentages are increasing daily by leaps and bounds. The total number of current positive staff cases is elevated and we have seen multiple exposures in several schools. The data for Exposures in our schools continues to grow as evidenced by the FCPS chart below.
Staff are fearing for their lives and those of their families. If the Superintendent cannot pull all three groups, at least discuss the current situation with EACH staff member and allow a return to virtual for those who must. When many of these staff members and students began in-person classes, they were told that there would be a point at which the district would bring them safely back to virtual classes. This does not seem to be the case and these staff feel they were deceived.
There is no additional support or compensation for those staff working in-person at this time. Food Service, Bus Drivers, Office Staff, Custodial and so many more in addition to our Classroom Teachers and Instructional Assistants are risking their lives every day and at a minimum deserve hazard pay or to be given an ability to telework, as needed.
Other large corporations in this region have pulled their employees back to fully virtual, it is time that FCPS do the same.
Fairfax Education Association Board of Directors