A letterbox with the inscription Letter to the editor

I am appalled by what I witnessed at the 13 July school board meeting, and I am not alone. While many parents are now looking at other education options for their children, such as private schools or homeschooling, I am still hopeful that reason and common sense will win the day.

Your role as a school board is to provide a framework of rules and guidelines for school system administration affecting major educational issues. Your role is to listen to your stakeholders, operate with integrity and help create an equitable educational environment where each student is provided the opportunity to reach their God-given potential. Your actions at the 13 July school board meeting failed to meet any of these standards.

Mr. [David] Jeck and this school board continue to speak about the stakeholders. Your stakeholders are Fauquier students and staff. Students consist of 85% of your stakeholders. Your largest stakeholder, by far, voted for the four-day model in your most recent survey. I would speculate Fauquier families would have voted for the traditional, five-day model, but you never even provided that as an option on either of your surveys. Then, on July 13, 23 individuals took time out of their day and prioritized your meeting to voice their concerns during citizen's time. Not a single parent or student voiced support for the A/B model. Not one. Only staff supports the A/B model - your 15% stakeholders. Yet, amazingly, you failed to listen to your stakeholders and voted, unanimously, for this ridiculous A/B model.

Following citizen's time during the 13 July school board meeting, multiple board members stated that they had not already made up their mind regarding their vote. Parents posed a litany of comments and questions to you. Yet, mere minutes after citizen's time ended, board members read from their prepared statements. Less than 18 minutes after citizen's time ended, this school board unanimously voted against the voice of the majority of Fauquier parents. You could not have considered all that was offered in any serious way in such a short amount of time. Fauquier families expect you to operate with integrity. You did not.

We continue to hear you argue that you are following the data and science. Again, just this week, Mr. Jeck stated that his team will reassess the A/B model based on the pandemic and school community.  What is there to reassess? Based on the data, the environment cannot get much better than it is. Fauquier County has had only eight deaths related to COVID-19. This board has unanimously decided to upend our school community, family homes and schedules, based on eight deaths. This is remarkable.  

In 2018, Fauquier County had 518 total deaths. Upending our community over a cause of death that accounts for less than 2% of all deaths in the county is not a wise decision. By this logic, you ought to have closed schools for dozens of other causes as well: influenza killed 219 Virginians in 2018. Where was the outcry then? Parent after parent reminded you of the data - COVID deaths are down 86% from their April peak; no child deaths in Fauquier County; children are not driving the spread of COVID. While every death matters, we must maintain perspective. The data supports the traditional five-day in-class schedule.

I am a huge supporter of Fauquier County School teachers. My children have been blessed with amazing teachers so far, teachers who truly care for their students. Let your teachers do what they do best — teach.  This is yet another policy by this board that continues to place obstacles in the way of Fauquier County School teachers. Your role is to remove obstacles and help create an equitable environment.

This is a time for the Fauquier school community to come together and be united. It is not too late for you to make the right decision. This is not hard or complicated. Listen to your stakeholders and make a data-driven decision. Should you do so, and operate with integrity, I will be your strongest advocate.

Garrett Hillstrom

Warrenton

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(2) comments

AngryBob

The problem is the governor's distancing mandate. To meet the required 6 feet of space between students, they can't physically fit all of them in classrooms and buses at the same time. Thus the A/B model. They didn't have any other choice.

So put the blame where it belongs. Governor Northam.

Godwins!

I give credit to Mr. Hillstrom for a very factual, well written opinion. It's time for our elected officials to stop using our children as pawns...(who in Fauquier County elected this governor???....Pitiful...I sure didn't). His agenda reaches far beyond our children and it's time for the parents and citizens of Fauquier county to start using their voices and start demanding common sense restrictions from our governor vs. what he is mandating now. Complete ludicrousy, yet many parents are being passive about it. I think I will be sending Mr. Hillstrom's comments to our governor to see if that might wake him up. It's been seven months of our children's lives destroyed because of corruption, lies, and politics. It's time for "we the people" to step up and get involved. Thank you to all those involved parents who attended the July 13th FHS board meeting, even though it appears you were all just ignored. Teachers: IF you really care about our children and IF you really enjoy teaching our children, what are you waiting for? Follow the science not the fear-mongering and fight alongside the other parents to get our kids back to school five days a week! We all need to reach out to Govenor Northam immediately. Thanks Bob, for the reminder of where the back-to-school issue began and where it remains.

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