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Rachel Good speaks at a Sept. 14 school board meeting. She is leading the charge to make sure children can return to school Nov. 9.

Rachel Good heard about the FCPS1 Equity petition that was launched to convince decision makers at Fauquier County Public Schools they should have students continue to learn virtually, instead of moving ahead with a hybrid model.

So Good started her own petition to make sure the plan to get kids back into classrooms doesn’t get derailed. (The petition may be found at https://www.change.org/p/fauquier-county-public-schools-fauquier-kids-back-in-schools-now.) As of Sunday evening, 570 signatures were on the petition. The FCPS1 Equity petition had 1,203 signatures. Good said she wasn’t paying attention to numbers of signatures because people were permitted to sign more than once.

The school board voted Sept. 23 to transition beginning Nov. 9 to a two-day-a-week, in-person learning plan for students who opt in. Students who choose to remain virtual would “attend” classes through a livestream of their teacher in the classroom. Half of in-person students would attend school Monday and Tuesday and the other half Thursday and Friday, meaning all in-person students would have two days of teacher-led learning and three days of work from home.

A press release from FCPS1 Equity leader Mike Hammond cited concerns that include reduced synchronous instructional time and a lower quality of remote instruction. The group also worries that starting a new model in the middle of a semester is ill-advised.

Good agreed that the hybrid model is not perfect, but she sees it as a steppingstone to opening the schools to children four days a week come January.

Good said although her daughter is a senior at Fauquier High, she is not weighing into the controversy on her daughter’s behalf. “She is OK with virtual learning. She is handling it. Some classes are OK, and some are not OK.”

Good is the owner of For a Dancer, a dance studio in Bealeton. She said through her job she talks to parents and children every day and she is worried. “These kids have so much anxiety. Some are depressed. They need normalcy.” She added, “Their parents are concerned they are not getting an education.”

Good said that her experience through her dance studio has given her insight into the issue, though on a smaller scale. “We started teaching virtually in March. At first it was OK. But the longer it went on, the kids didn’t like it. After a while, we would play games, anything to get them involved and interested.”

In June, she said, For a Dancer opened for in-person classes, “and we were flooded with students.” She said, “We took all precautions; temperatures were taken, sanitizer was available, and we all wash hands a lot.”

She said the experience confirmed for her the value of in-classroom teaching.

“I’m happy the kids are getting back in the classroom, but I’m not happy they’re waiting until Nov. 9. I don’t think it takes that long, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for teachers.”

Good said she doesn’t think Hammond’s group gives “teachers enough credit. I have more faith in our teachers.”

She said that she interacts frequently with local teachers and that “teachers want to go back; they want to be in the classroom.” Good said that “teachers are reluctant to say that they want schools to open, but they are ready to be back in the classroom.”

Good said she has learned about the hybrid model from her sister, who teaches in Florida. “She has 14 in the classroom and five on livestream. It’s very difficult to do. It would be so much better if everyone was in the classroom.”

Good is concerned about children who feel intimidated by the virtual format. “They don’t want to respond to questions. They don’t get involved.” Good said that she hopes that if some children are in the classroom and the kids at home see the interaction, “maybe they’ll participate too.”

For her part, Good is stepping up to make sure the hybrid plan can work. “I’m in the process of signing up to be a substitute teacher. I’m doing whatever I can to help.”

Reach Robin Earl at rearl@fauquier.com

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