VIRGINIA, USA — After a renewed push from the Trump administration to reopen schools to in-person learning come fall, Virginia teachers joined together Sunday to say they don't feel safe going back.
“I am not Notorious B.I.G, and I am not ready to die," Virginia high school teacher Sonia Smith said.
The grassroots organization Virginia Educators United hosted a virtual town hall Sunday to discuss reopening plans in their respective school systems.
Organizers invited astrophysicist and retired professor Dr. Jeff Hester to weigh in on what the numbers suggest.
“Right now, COVID is making the only rules that matter," Dr. Hester said. "Presidents, vice-presidents, governors, school board members can say whatever the heck they want to say, and COVID doesn’t care.”
He predicts an incoming peak in Virginia cases like Florida and Texas are seeing now.
As of Sunday morning, the Virginia Department of Health has reported 70,670 total coronavirus cases, 10% of which data shows are in children.
“There is no way anytime soon anyone in the nation is going to be safe to go back to any sort of face to face classes," Dr. Hester said. "If you do, it’s going to be a train wreck.”
Teachers like Kimberly Adams, who serves as a librarian for Fairfax County Public Schools and the president for the Fairfax Education Association, said she agrees that schools are not ready.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we’re just not there yet, as far as our union is concerned," Adams said. "We just don’t think it’s safe at this point with all the unanswered questions that remain.”
At FCPS, there's a discrepancy between how parents and teachers want to see the school reopen.
School board member Melanie Meren posted survey results Friday that showed 62% of parents who have responded to the survey so far chose in-person learning as opposed to 51% of teachers.
Organizers asked in the town hall if teachers feel safe returning to campus during the pandemic, and they said 97% responded "no".
“Teaching our youth is a great honor, but being in a physical classroom right now, well that’s just not safe," Virginia high school teacher Dr. Milondra Coleman said.