The first option would mean instruction would be entirely remote; the second option was for students to attend schools for in-person learning one day per week; the third option was for in-person classes two days per week and the fourth option would mean one-half of students would attend school in-person for four days during one week, and the other half would attend the next week. For all options that would have students attend some classes in-person, additional instruction would be provided remotely.
The June 29 school board meeting came after 5,000 parents and 85% of FCPS staff members responded to a survey that asked which plan they supported; the majority of respondents favored returning to in-person classes for two days per week, with remaining instruction taking on a virtual format.
However, at the June 29 meeting school board members requested the school division distribute an additional survey with a fifth option added; this plan would see all students attend in-person classes four days per week, every week. This additional survey also asks more specific questions about students, along with parents’ specific preferences related to transportation and other issues. The results of this second survey will be discussed at a July 9 emergency meeting of the school board.
Below is a letter to members of the Fauquier Education Association dated July 3 and signed by Lauren Brill, the organization’s president. The FEA is the local chapter of the Virginia Education Association, the largest public teachers’ union in Virginia. Some minor edits have been made for clarity.
At the last school board work session board members discussed that parents had expressed their desire for Fauquier County Public Schools to reopen under a traditional plan, with all students back in the classroom for four full days per week. As many of you know, in response to that feedback the school board requested a new survey to parents and staff that would gather specific information to aid them in selecting which reopening plan they would support moving forward at their special work session on July 9.
Superintendent of Schools David Jeck and his staff proposed a blended A/B plan that would put students back in the classroom two days a week but would allow for the adherence of social distancing and other safety precautions in response to COVID-19. This model shows the blended AA/BB schedule with a Wednesday planning day as the best opportunity to mitigate health concerns and allow for cleaning of facilities between groups.
The Fauquier Education Association has reviewed guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Education, Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Recover, Redesign and Restart 2020” comprehensive plan for reopening Virginia schools, the recommendations from the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health, Superintendent Jeck’s proposed reopening plan and many other materials relating to the process, planning and mitigation measures needed to reopen public schools in Fauquier County.
While no plan is perfect, we believe that the safety of students and staff is no match for any other concern raised at the June 29 work session of the school board. It would be unethical of us as educators to disregard the expertise of medical and education professional in supporting anything more than the blended A/B model proposed by Superintendent Jeck.
At this time, the FEA believes that, due to the current trend in cases from the state and the plans outlined through the presentation from Superintendent Jeck and his staff, that the blended A/B plan will allow for the safest reopening possible for our county. The FEA strongly supports the blended AB plan outlined in Superintendent Jeck’s presentation on June 29.
The FEA is committed to supporting its members so that when they return in-person at their workplace the plan will follow CDC guidelines and adhere to the safest working conditions possible with appropriate personal protective equipment.
For those who would fall under the high-risk category due to a pre-existing condition or family situation, we will fully support that you be able to telework or receive leave under the Family Medical Leave Act during this critical time. We will also continue to work so that all employees with school-aged students in our school system will have childcare during this time of a blended plan of reopening. We want you to feel that your children will be taken care of as you return to your work in FCPS.
Not only should the advice of medical professionals be heard, but the community must trust and acknowledge your expertise as educators and professionals in students’ learning and school settings in this situation. Your feedback and responses to the surveys distributed by the school division have been invaluable to helping us move forward with a plan to support. We believe your voice must be heard!
We urge you to share this expertise and experience with our school board, members of the community and our school families as the experts within the school facilities and classrooms. These individuals should know the questions, concerns and challenges we know to be true as those on the front lines of this issue, especially if a plan was implemented that was not supported by guidance from health care and school professionals.
Once this vote is cast, we cannot move back; ask yourself if the lives of your peers and students are worth that the risk if a plan is selected that would not follow professional recommendations and guidance!
The FEA urges all its members to reach out to school board members and stress your concerns and questions regarding the survey and options to reopen. We need you to request that they support Superintendent Jeck’s proposal for a blended A/B plan as the best way to reopen public schools in Fauquier County.
While there are still many questions to be answered and details to be worked out, we feel that these are being developed effectively with the help of the FEA through your expert advice. We want all our members to know that your health and safety is valued and that you should not feel they have to suffer for your job!
President, Fauquier Education Association