Paid 5 and 6 of this document outlines paid leave options for employees. Up to 12 weeks for COVID related issues. These are CURRENT guidelines for employees who have returned/are returning to work.
One of the reasons I decided to run for re-election is to be able to have a voice for teachers, staff and parents who have been expressing their concerns related to safety and student discipline. I have been raising these concerns for a couple of years now and a temporary committee was finally created this year to try to address those concerns. Even though the chair of the committee wanted to end the work of the committee prior to our completion, I was able to get the committee to push forward and recommendations will be made to the full school board at this week's School board retreat. I will highlight those recommendations later but wanted to share some of the data that was collected from staff surveys. 26 schools were surveyed by our committee. Schools were chosen based on VDOE survey results. Approximately half of the schools were those that scored highest on the VDOE surveys in the areas of discipline and safety and the other half were those that scored the lowest. Here are the qualitative summaries that I put together from the staff surveys on the topic of student discipline and safety. Appropriate portions were redacted by the School Board attorney.
Here is the agenda for the School Board Retreat for July 7 & 8. The public will have the opportunity to address the Board regarding views regarding reopening schools. The Board will be meeting in person for the retreat meetings as well as having meals together. However, the Board will leave prior to the public speaker portion of the meeting. The speaker portion of the meeting will be via ZOOM.
I requested to have the speaker portion in-person but was overruled. If you wish to speak to the Board on the topic of School Reopening, this will be your opportunity. Instructions for speaking: Remarks are limited to four minutes per person. Requests to address the Board are made through the clerk of the Board by calling 757.263.1016 by noon the day of the meeting.
A few weeks ago, the Board chose to have a 4 1/2 hour IN PERSON closed meeting to evaluate the superintendent and to vote to give him a $12,000 bonus and extend his contract (I voted NO). However, the Board cannot take the time to hold an in-person hearing to listen to our very important stakeholders (the community) on the very important topic of reopening our schools.
This letter was received by the School Board from a Pediatrician and Emergency Physician. It is important for the public to know that my decisions regarding reopening schools are based on input from experts on the ground including parents, teachers, staff and physicians. These local physicians also garnered a petition of 8,000 people who signed to reopen our schools full time. Many of those who signed the petition were also physicians.
I'm a pediatrician married to an emergency medicine physician (who has a masters in public health)....We've seen the fallout of school closures in children, and after speaking to many of our colleagues in health care, we decided to write a petition from the perspective of healthcare workers who feel that the health and well being of CHILDREN is not being considered enough in the closures of school. While there is no doubt that COVID is deadly for certain populations, we are dismayed that children are suffering needlessly.
The petition is signed by thousands of pediatricians, physicians from all fields, social workers, nurses, counselors, speech therapists, teachers, and psychologists and psychiatrists, among others. Because so many parents wanted to sign it, we opened the petition to them and it now has nearly 8,000 signatures (growing by the day). (Most professionals did not add their credentials but I vouch for several hundred of them!) Please read it at https://www.change.org/openVAschools or see the attached signatures and comments PDFs with the petition copied below.
We realize at this point that schools plan to open somehow, but we implore you to open FULL TIME with as much normal activity as possible, while making efforts to protect teachers. Moving to Phase 3 by August is needed, and we MUST not take the joy out of school-- recess, sports, and activities should be preserved as much as possible as they are directly responsible for kids' mental and emotional development and well-being.
An "opt in to full time attendance" and "opt out for full remote learning" option makes the most scientific and practical sense for the following reasons:
1/ Hybrid models require parents to obtain childcare on 'off days.'
a/This WIDENS the circles of exposure to daycares/nannies/adult caregivers which is the opposite of what we want to do.
b/This is costly. Poor families struggle to afford childcare. Many kids will be home alone. Increasing the burden of finding care widens already existing inequities; some will have to quit jobs to stay home with children.
c/There is likely not enough childcare to allow for this, even if affordable. Childcare is already hard to find, so even those who can afford it will struggle. Grandparents or older people who have cared for children in the past are often unable to care for extended families' children anymore. (This is our situation, and reflects others as well: grandparents cannot care for kids of two working parents due to risk factors, and nannies are scarce.) We are all seeing many situations in which young children are receiving no supervision at all.
d/ Remote learning is NOT working for the vast majority of students, especially those with special needs AND is unfairly biased toward those who already have more resources to support ‘homeschooling’, widening already existing gaps.
2. Opt-out allows people who either DESIRE to homeschool or who MUST homeschool due to risk, to do so. Teachers who want to support remote learning due to their own health concerns can support the likely increase in families who choose to homeschool.
3. If busing is the issue, give the community the chance to re-envision this. Other states don’t use buses (eg California). Prioritize buses to be used by kids already identified (free-reduced lunch) and allow the community to rise to the challenge. Parents are used to networking and many would have to drive their kids to daycare if school wasn’t open.
Please recruit physicians like us who are seeing FIRSTHAND what kids are experiencing-- as well as school counselors and psychologists, who are busier than ever-- to participate in existing 'task forces' and support schools to open in a sensible way. We see superintendents and college presidents on your task forces but we need more people who are seeing what is happening to kids over the last few months. From anxiety to depression, to screen addiction, regression of speech apraxia or social skills, we are seeing kids suffer immeasurably, for no benefit to them or society as a whole.
Physicians on the ground want to participate in the decision-making processes. The CDC recommendations are somewhat nebulous and will be difficult to implement, and some should not be implemented at all in some places. We are a diverse Commonwealth. We want to help schools reopen and support the staff and teachers.
The resolution being proposed for a vote by the School Board is here for your review.
The Attorney General recently published an opinion regarding how public bodies should conduct business during an emergency when they cannot meet in person and have the public attend. The AG stated: “the General Assembly did not intend to permit public bodies to handle all business through electronic communication means, even during a declared emergency,” and that “public bodies should carefully consider whether taking a given action during a meeting held by electronic communication means is truly essential and should defer any and all decisions that can be deferred until it is once again possible to meet in person.” He further stated that "it is my opinion that Code § 2.2-3708.2(A)(3) permits public bodies that are unable to assemble in person because of the unique characteristics of the COVID-19 virus to meet electronically to make decisions that must be made immediately and where failure to do so could result in irrevocable public harm." The full opinion can be found here: https://www.oag.state.va.us/files/Opinions/2020/Sullivan-Opinion-Request.pdf
It appears to me that the resolution up for a vote on Tuesday is to allow the School Board to proceed on topics not related to the emergency. Item #6 would allow the School Board to meet electronically for reasons that "include but are not limited to":
-procurement of goods and services
-adoption or amendment of politices and regulations
-acquisition and disposal of public and real property
-construction of facilities and related contracts
It is my opinion that this resolution oversteps the bounds of laws governing emergency electronic meetings. When I asked the deputy city attorney for the School Board to provide me with how this resolution complies with law, her response was "What this resolution does is allow School Board meetings that will allow normal operational decisions to be made."
Based on the AG's opinion, electronic meetings are for emergency decisions not "normal operational decisions".
The Governor even addressed this topic in one of his new conferences: Watch starting around 2:50: https://www.facebook.com/GovernorVA/videos/205693103862445/
VDOE Memo regarding Graduation Requirements, Awarding of Credits, and Continuity of Learning (March 23, 2020).
Regarding Grading and Grade Point Averages:
The authority to award grades and determine grade point averages rests with local school divisions. School divisions should consider the guidance related to distance and online learning and the considerations regarding equity and a thoughtful approach to instruction, and the impact of alternative measures of achievement and mastery, including the possibility of offering “pass” or “fail” as a final grade. Whereas the VDOE recognizes that decisions on grades are a local decision, the VDOE does not recommend grading work completed during the closures since schools are closed. Additionally, VDOE recognizes that grade calculations and GPA are a local policy issue. VDOE does recommend that school divisions establish a methodology to fairly calculate grades based on work previously completed and a methodology for including said grades in GPA calculations and on student transcripts. VDOE encourages school divisions to work closely with VDOE should they feel they need additional flexibility within the transcript regulations.