Around 1:15am this morning, the VB School Board voted 8 to 3 to approve the superintendent's recommendation of online school to begin the fall. I, along with 2 other Board members, advocated for parents to have a choice for in person learning or virtual learning. I felt that due to the reduced numbers of students who would be returning to school (based on parent questionnaires), we could do it safely. I advocated for proper PPE for our staff. I also advocated for staff who have underlying medical conditions or care for family members with medical concerns to also have a choice.
During the meeting, we heard from pediatricians. One doctor stated that he has seen a 23% rise in children with depression indicators. Another pediatrician indicated that children have already died due to factors of isolation. I have spoken with medical professionals who have told me that there has been a surge of people with suicidal ideations. It is my view, after talking with medical experts that the risks of isolation in both our students and staff outweigh the risks of COVID. I also know there are a large number of teachers who have indicated they want to be back to in-person learning this fall.
We can never guarantee complete safety, even without COVID. We can minimize risk. It was my view that this could be done through smaller class sizes and proper PPE.
We must now move forward with the plan approved by the School Board. My greatest concern is that the "green" indicators for returning our 7-8th grade, and 10-12th grades back to school are much too stringent. Even a pediatrician last night said that it could take years to get into the "green" level and that COVID could be with us for many years. The Superintendent did indicate that there is flexibility to send students back to school once we are in the "yellow" levels. The plans for the different levels are attached.
I am also concerned for our students with special needs, our specialty programs that require hands on learning (VoTech, ATC) as well as our elective classes (music, art, PE, etc).
I know that we have a lot of dedicated teachers and staff who will do their best to try to make the Superintendent's plan work and I will offer my support to do all we can to help all of our students succeed.