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.
My colleague Carolyn Weems and I have created an alternative proposal for VB Schools reopening (letter below). We disagree with the recommendation made by the Superintendent and have presented an alternative proposal to our Colleagues on the School Board. So far, one other Board member has signed on for support. This decision was reached after receiving expert medical opinions from local physicians as well as recommendations from the CDC and AAP. If you support our proposal, please e-mail the Board and let them know: firstname.lastname@example.org
A vote is scheduled for tomorrow evening. A group is also organizing a rally in support of choice, here is a link to their event: http://evite.me/JDJbdXGa84
Apparently, the Board will not receive the collated data from the Parent & Staff questionnaires until Tuesday, but below are some of the results. I continue to review the recommended plan and welcome feedback from the public. School Board group e-mail is email@example.com.
Family data (34802 respondents)
Scenario 1 (face to face) preference:
Send to school, 62%
Remote learning only, 36%
Would disenroll, 1%
Scenario 2 (hybrid) preference:
Send to school, 72%
Remote learning only, 24%
Would disenroll, 3%
Scenario 3 (virtual only)
Will you continue to enroll in VBCPS:
Instructional Staff data (5377 respondents)
Return to position in Scenario 1 (face to face):
No, will retire or resign, less than 1%
Preference for teaching in Scenario 1:
No preference, 40%
Prefer face to face, 35%
Prefer to teach remotely only, 25%
Return to position in Scenario 2 (hybrid, alternating day):
No, will resign or retire, less than 1%
Preference for teaching in Scenario 2:
No preference, 43%
Prefer face to face, 32%
Prefer to teach remotely only, 25%
Return to position in Scenario 3 (virtual only):
No, less than 1%
Non-Instructional Staff data (2446 respondents)
Return to position under face to face model:
No, less than 1%
Return to position under Hybrid (alternating day) model:
No, less than 1%
I previously posted a statement on social media that I received from the VBEA stating that they are opposed to schools reopening this fall. The attacks toward me in the comment section were interesting. People saying that I no longer support teachers is absolutely incorrect. I want to share a portion of an e-mail that I received from a teacher asking us to reopen schools:
“I had a sad FaceTime conversation with one of my… students. She has my cell number because communicating with her during virtual learning was easier than Zoom. As we started talking her tears began to flow. She told me she was so worried about school next year and what it was going to be like. She sits at home alone a lot and doesn't get out to see friends. She misses school so much and wants to go back so bad.”
For all of those people with the VBEA saying that I don’t listen to teachers, the VBEA only represents a small portion of VB Schools employees. I’m also listening to all sides, including the large number of teachers who feel that it is in the best interest of the students to return to the classroom this fall. I have talked with many pediatricians and other physicians who have stated that the negative aspects of not having in-person learning far outweigh the impacts of COVID.
I still support our employees and I also support our parents and students. I support choice. I support those who want to opt-in their students to in-person learning but I also support those who want to opt-in to full time meaningful virtual learning. For our employees who have documented health conditions, options are being provided per the “reopening plans” provided by HR and I support our HR department for making those accommodations. Other plans for paid leave have also been put into place for anyone who has been exposed to COVID or must care for family members who have been exposed (see reopening plans for further details). I also support the division providing appropriate PPE to our staff.
I support our teachers and employees, but I do not support the VBEA. Last year when I was advocating for teacher working conditions related to student discipline problems, fighting and school safety the VBEA leadership filed a complaint against me, rather than helping me. They were not happy because I was exposing what was really happening behind the scenes. I have not seen the VBEA do anyting to help with teacher concerns related to student discipline problems and school safety?
For those stating that the VBEA is not a union and that there is no collective bargaining—you are incorrect. They are (by their own admission) a union and collective bargaining can also now be allowed in Virginia based on new legislation just passed.
Page 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.