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Loudoun teachers hold 'solidarity for safety rally' in response to reopening plan

Some Loudoun County teachers said they are not comfortable with the school district's plans to have some kids return to school in the fall.

ASHBURN, Va. — Hundreds of teachers in Loudoun County came together for a noisy protest in Ashburn on Monday.

Loudoun Education Association members honked the horns of their cars outside the Loudoun County Schools Administration Building to let administrators know they are concerned with the school system's plan to reopen schools in the fall.

The school system recently decided to let parents decide between two options for schooling their children in the fall. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) will let students either participate in 100% distance learning during the fall semester or a hybrid learning model that consists of two days of in-person learning and three days of distance learning.

RELATED: 'I'm not ready to die' | Some Virginia teachers say they are not ready for a return to school amid pandemic

LCPS has asked parents to make a binding decision as to which way they would like their children to learn by Wednesday.

But, some educators said they were worried teachers’ voices weren’t being adequately heard.

David Palanzi, president of the Loudoun Education Association, said some teachers still had questions about how the school district would ensure their safety in the classroom.

 “When you think of classrooms, it's not just the teacher and a few students that are just sitting in a room, there's interactions going on throughout the building, continually,” he said.

LCPS recently revealed it would provide staff with additional cleaning supplies to make sure their classrooms were safe. However, Palanzi said teachers still had issues over how some preventative measures would be rolled out.

"The concern is really set around schools being under-resourced,” he said. “We've always been under-resourced. Teachers spend hundreds of their own dollars to bring in supplies for their kids and looking at how to have supplies to save their lives is really a difficult thing for lots of teachers."

Some Loudoun teachers, like Miriam Westervelt, have been pushing the school district to conduct 100% distance learning for all its students. She said she believes teachers could handle the transition.

“I feel confidently that if given more time and more professional development, the teachers in my department would roll out distance learning and have all their students engaged,” Westervelt said.

Some students also joined teachers in solidarity at Monday’s rally. Student Shannon Patton said she wanted to do whatever she could to keep teachers safe.

"We want to stay healthy and we want to keep our family members healthy, especially elders," she said.

RELATED: Here's how Loudoun County public schools plan on keeping classrooms clean next year

WUSA9 reached out to Loudoun County Public Schools for a comment regarding Monday’s protest. The school system provided the following statement:

"Loudoun County Public Schools' highest priority is the safety and well-being of students, staff members and their families, as evidenced by our decision to close schools on March 12, prior to the Governor's decision that all schools would close in Virginia, and by our decision not to set aside the Governor's Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools in order to start the school year with five days a week of in-person learning for students.

LCPS continues to prioritize safety in planning for the return to school, following the guidance and recommendations of local, state and federal health authorities. Our plans call for physical distancing on buses and in classrooms, a limited number of students in classes, additional cleaning of buildings and other measures that are consistent with health authorities' guidance. We will continue to refine these plans as we approach the new year. Parents who do not wish to send their students to school have the option of choosing 100 percent distance learning.

We acknowledge the diverse opinions regarding how schools should operate in the new school year. We understand the urgency of some who wish to maximize in-person learning and we share the appropriate focus on the well-being of students, staff members, and the broader community."

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