A select few Fairfax County public schools launched a pilot program this week that would meet students' needs both in and out of the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic. The concurrent learning program places cameras in all classrooms, so students who are still at home can keep up with the lessons. Some parents and teachers welcomed the innovative approach, while others warned it's just too risky.
“It’s kind of an experiment,” said Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams. “So right in the middle of the school year, we're doing this experiment. And this is too valuable. Lives are at stake.”
Students in Fairfax County, VA, have been learning virtually since March and are itching to get back to class. But the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers is urging the school district to keep schools shuttered for several more months.
"Draw and hold the line by keeping Fairfax County Public Schools virtual for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year," the union writes in a letter to the Fairfax County School Board and Superintendent.
"Science and Health Safety data support and require that no one should return to in person instruction until there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment," the letter continues. "The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread."
To cut to the chase, the union requests that schools remain closed until August 2021.
Critics wondered whether the teachers simply didn't want to show up to work, and shared some science of their own that proves Fairfax schools can and should safely reopen.
Disney World has figured out how to accomodate thousands of guests at their amusement parks and various properties.— Michele Perez Exner (@michelepexner) October 20, 2020
But the Fairfax County teacher's union wants another 10 months to figure out how to open classrooms for our children. https://t.co/rV8gIZYhJ5
This is shameful. Reminder that Fairfax county has 3.5% positivity and a daily average of 2 hospitalizations, 0 deaths in the last 7 days. It is a county of 1.1 million people. https://t.co/aY3ZVURf5x— Kirsten Borman Dougherty (@kborman) October 20, 2020
WHO and CDC both recommend that schools can reopen when cases are beneath 100 in 100,000. Fairfax is.... 7 in 100,000. pic.twitter.com/NJtrkybm0V— Kirsten Borman Dougherty (@kborman) October 20, 2020
On their website, the union shares a survey that revealed eight in ten teachers "lack confidence" in the FCPS reopening plan and less than ten percent feel safe to return. They add that a majority are considering leaving the school system if they're "forced to work in an unsafe school."
To be convinced it's safe to return, the union demands that the school district meet its 11 pillars of a safe reopening. The list includes a virtual work option for all staff, physical distancing, PPE, rigorous tracking and tracing, proactive school closures, and more.