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'There's still so many questions' | Fairfax County teachers raise concerns about school district's reopening plan

Some teachers worry they won't be granted the virtual option even if they're not ready to go back to class.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Last week, Fairfax County Public Schools released its reopening plan for the fall, which offers a 100% virtual option or part-time in-person learning for students and teachers to choose. But, according to the district, the options for teachers are based on enrollment.

“I think all three associations are disappointed in the scenarios they’ve put out for us to consider," Becca Ferrick, the President of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators said. 

The school system requested responses by July 10 from parents and teachers about which option they prefer — a deadline Ferrick said is far too soon.

She and her colleagues with the Fairfax Education Association and Fairfax County Federation of Teachers said the plan leaves too many unanswered questions for them to make well-informed decisions as teachers or parents.

So, the three educator unions penned a letter to FCPS, requesting more clarity, and an extension on the deadline.

“We definitely felt that … the number of educators who are concerned for their own well-being or their families should drive the number of spaces open for students," Kimberly Adams, President of the Fairfax Education Association said. "Unfortunately, the reverse is true.”

FCPS's website says:

"Student demand for online learning will drive staffing needs. Any teacher may request a full-time online teaching assignment. Teachers placements will be contingent upon student enrollment numbers in the online program and tiered by teachers eligible for accommodations under federal law; family medical need; and preference."

RELATED: Fairfax County School Board wants parent, teacher input before finalizing fall plan

RELATED: Fairfax County parents, teachers question feasibility of plan to reopen schools

The realities of in-person instruction prompt a series of questions from teachers, like "What is the criteria that will keep children from entering my classroom? Who’s doing the temperature taking and what does the health screening look like? What are the thresholds for when we shut down a classroom or shut down a school building based on viral outbreak?" Adams said. "All of the ins and outs of what a day will look like, we don’t have that yet, so that’s another piece that’s really critical.”

Adams and Ferrick are worried that some teachers who want the 100% virtual option won't receive it because of classroom needs.

“Talk about a 50% model, people think oh it’s only two days a week, but our educators are going to be exposed every day for the full week," Adams said. "And then we bring that home to our families.”

FCPS shared the following statement with WUSA 9 Sunday:

  • Teacher associations have been part of the Return to school planning task force. They actively serve on the task force and we’ve collaborated throughout the planning process of developing the two options.
  • Teachers AND families are being provided with choice- which is what FCPS heard from our surveys.
  • Health and safety of all staff and students are our primary concerns.
  • We will continue to stay engaged with our teachers and all staff moving forward.
  • We expect to issue a letter to parents that will offer the opportunity for them (and staff) to express their intent for Fall early next week. We will use these results to develop a master schedule. Our initial surveys showed that 42% of our students wanted virtual instruction- we need to see if that’s still the case when we hear the final word back.
  • Scheduling in a NORMAL year is a complex task; our staff is used to it. This will be even more complex. Flexibility and patience will be required by all of us.

Ferrick believes the school system is rushing a return to the classroom.

“I think the safest option, for now, is to put off returning physically to school buildings for some time," she said.

FCPS is requesting parent responses on preferences by July 10.

RELATED: Return to class: Fairfax County lays out plan for students to safely return to school this fall

RELATED: Virginia releases plan for phased reopening of schools

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